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Being Brave

iStock_000011800840XSmallOur church is back to that time of year, the all church journey.  From the nursery to senior pastor, we all take the journey together.  All teaching, worship etc, takes on the same direction.  Again this year it is called the Brave Journey.  It’s about going places you haven’t before, following God out of the boat and on to the water, being brave to let Him make some change(s) in our life, our faith, our walk with Christ.

Step one is finding your heading, the direction you want to go. The direction very well may change as you go along, it is how God works.  But you cannot get OUT of the boat until you get IN the boat and off of the shore.

For a while now I’ve debated writing a non-fiction book about how God found me, the faith I had, lost and now have again.  The story of me.  It would mean being very vulnerable, confessing things my kids know nothing of, heck few folks have a clue of the darkness, and could risk my relationship with many I love.  But it isn’t really about me, it is about how God can change our lives and make something beautiful of our sin, beauty from ashes as the bible says.

My heading?  Well, to write that book.  I’ll publish it independently, most likely.  While there is a publisher, a Christian one, interested in this story, I’d rather put it out myself. But I’ll see about that.  First it must be written.  It will mean pulling back the layers I’ve neatly covered things under, allowing myself to go back through the pain.  It might be difficult, but it might also help other women trying to find forgiveness with God and a life away from sin.  A real look without the ‘buzz’ words and special talk, a down to earth, where the soles of the shoes meet the dirt of reality, as a life trying to mend.

I’m in a small group, it is part of the whole Journey, and they are a safe place.  My daughter and her husband are a part of that group, which means this could be extremely difficult.  But it is time I use what I’ve been told is a talent I have, writing, to move closer to God and help others.

So, you can pray for me if you don’t mind, while I step out of the boat on a rocky sea, keeping my eyes on Christ and moving toward the next level in my spiritual walk.

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BRAVE: Update

11088539_10152885026453935_6365408097417848396_nAs I had mentioned in my post yesterday, during the journey we reach a point of facing a fear.  Mine was personally apologizing to someone, and the fear was rejection.  Few people, including yours truly, can graciously accept an apology and say “accepted and forgiven”.  We feel the need to delve into more, perhaps rub salt in the wound or flat out just reject the person.  And my fear was the rejection and a healthy dose of salt, so when I opened the mailbox today that is exactly what I initially felt I had received.

The letter writer has reason to still have ill feelings, as I did indeed say some very mean and hurtful things.  I admit I was going for the heart in the things I so often said and posted, and it would seem I was an over achiever when I posted them.  And I was wrong, as I said in my apology.  It wasn’t about being vindicated, and I certainly did not feel persecuted.  I simply reached that place where it was time to apologize.  I knew there was not going to be any reconciliation, I got back exactly what I had expected.

The writer asked a series of questions.  At first I wanted to take them as pure salt in the wounds, but then one thing I had always loved about this friend was her ability to ask questions that made me stop and think, deep introspection of me.  So, instead of seeing it on the knee jerk side, I’m choosing to believe that despite her words she isn’t attacking,  but that underneath she does care.  And as she has requested I no longer send things to her, I will answer them here.

I do find it interesting that I just answered, in some ways, many of these yesterday in my blog post about the Brave Journey, before receiving her letter.  Perhaps this is God’s way of confirming those very things I’ve been addressing.

*Are you really happy with your life?

Over all, yes I am happy.  No one has a perfect existence and never will.  Every day things spontaneously erupt in our lives, both good and bad, but it is how we choose to react that counts.  We choose to be happy, or angry, and 95% of the time my choice is to be happy.  My life is full of laughter and good times.  No, getting divorced was not a fun thing to go through.  I was very hurt and often lashed out in irrational ways at many around me.  But while hurt, I was also happy, and found fun and good in my life.  Now, more than ever, I am happy with my life.  I see now that some of the bad was direct or indirect consequences of my own choices and actions, and other providences were meant to bring me to where I am now.

*Do you ever stop and think, “what if I’d been a better friend, wife, mother, daughter?”

Yes, I do stop and think that.  And I have often seen where I fall very short of being the perfect version of any of those.  I cannot fix the sins of my past, only work in the present and toward the future of being the very best version of those and countless other hats I wear in life.

*If you could go back, would you do things differently?

Tough question, as I have to assume that you mean IF I could take back what I know now, so that I could change the outcome.  And I honestly do not know that I’d do much if anything any differently.  I’m in a different place now than at any given moment in the past.  We’re all on a journey toward eternity, and everything we do causes ripples in the pond.  Sometimes things we do that were meant for evil, God uses specifically for good in another’s life.  And the bad others do He uses for good in my own.  Part of growing, however painful it has been, has come from making the very mistakes that bring me to who I am now.  This woman I am now is far better for having made the mistakes that I did.

*Did you really believe you were the airbrushed photos of yourself?

That truly is an odd question to come up when I was apologizing for being so hateful but I’ll gladly answer it.  Um no, I knew more than anyone else what my flaws were and still are to this day.  Airbrushed photos were fantasy stuff and that was all.  No different from what is published in Playboy, just fun, fantasy photos.  I enjoyed them, but I knew that I had imperfections as did everyone else.  I guess they bothered you as you are still bringing them up now, 7 or 8 years later?  If they caused a problem for you then certainly I apologize for that as well.

*How did your choices lead you to where you are now?

Many choices brought me here.  The first and largest was the choice to allow myself to be talked into the swinger lifestyle.  I believe it tore the very fabric of my marriage apart.  My choices of that, and to be open about it, and the photos being published all contributed to my failed marriage and my losing my job after 26 years.  I went from a life as a deacon’s wife serving God in a great church, to unemployed and soon after divorced and way off the path toward Christ.

After that, many choices I made during the first 3 years of my after-divorce life were also poor ones that very nearly cost me my relationship with my kids.  My dating a 1%er and being an old lady to a motorcycle club member was NOT one of my better choices.  I went through a very self-destructive time, all of my own choosing.

Where I am now came from all of that.  Now I know where my true value is, not in photos, or a sinful lifestyle, or being anyone’s wife, girlfriend etc.  My value is 100% in the death and resurrection of Christ, paying for all of the sins I have and will commit in my life.  My value is in the shed blood that makes me a daughter of God, true royalty, and the soul that God sees through that blood that is perfect because of that blood.  My choices make me appreciate so much more what was done on that cross to save my worthless soul.

*Do you have people you consider real friends?

Yes, I do have a small, select group of individuals who I consider real friends and who consider me a friend as well.  They know my weaknesses, my darkest secrets, my greatest sorrows and regrets, as well as my highest moments, greatest joys and the love we have is deep and true for each other.

*In the middle of the night? Could you pick up the phone and have someone there for you?

Yes, and I have made that call in the past few years, more than once.  And the calls were answered and I had the support, guidance and love that was needed at those moments.

*Would you answer the phone if someone called you?

Yes.  If you are in need, give it a try sometime.

*Why do all of your relationships fail?

Poor choices for one.  Motorcycle club members that qualify as gang members by police standards, do not make for a good match.  I broke that one off.

The control freak, yeah that didn’t go so well, he broke that off because I wasn’t one that is easy to control.

Mr. Wonderful, well he left out a really important detail when we were dating, see he was still married and that is why that one failed.  Once I uncovered that piece of information I ended things.  We’re the best of friends now but that is why that relationship failed.

Then there was Pat, my Knight, who I lived with for a year until a year ago.  That didn’t fail, I ended it.  I was back in church and struggling with living in sin.  We both knew what we were doing was wrong, but I also didn’t want to be married.  I didn’t want to be a step mom as hard as I tried to be a good one.  I made the choice to end that and moved back to Cincinnati.

Most recently there was the Badge.  My son-in-law had done some research and warned me about him.  At first it was a great relationship but it was built completely on lies.  Lies about his family relationships, lies about how many times he was married, pretty much the only thing he did not lie about was his name.  He put up a great show, going to church and respecting my no sex til married criteria.  But when the lies unraveled and the truth started to surface, I ended that one as well.

So, they didn’t fail, some the guy ended, but the most significant ones I put an end too because they were not at all right. That isn’t failure in my opinion, just ending something that simply was all wrong.

*HOW CAN YOU MAKE A DIFFERENCE?

First, by making sure that all things in my life line up with the guideline of who I know I am in Christ.  There are still things in my life undergoing change, but I’m not the person you knew before.  Not who I was even a year ago.  I am more prayerful about choices that need to be made, I try hard to put myself in the other person’s shoes.  I’m far more other oriented than I’ve ever been.

I do not believe for one minute that the writer does not care good, bad or indifferent.  If I had ceased to exist she’d not have bothered to reply, let alone put so much into the reply.  I DO think she cares, deep down, but will never admit it.  That is okay, she is still on my lips often in prayer, and always will be.  I make a choice to do so.

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This Brave Journey

11088539_10152885026453935_6365408097417848396_nOur church, Crossroads in Cincinnati, recently began what they are calling an all church experience.  Every year they do a journey in which everything is geared toward the journey, so the entire church from the babies on up, is on the same page, same journey with God.  This is the first time I have participated and I’m seeing quickly why it is so loved by so many.  It is deep, and powerful, and life changing.

This year the journey is called BRAVE.  It centers around Peter getting out of the boat and walking on the water to Jesus during a storm.  We all have our own heading, and also storms to go through as we journey together on our course.  While in past years the church has printed up books etc for this, in the interest of saving money and paper they are doing it via an app for Android and iPhones, and it is one amazing app taking us all on one amazing journey.  The messages for 6 weeks on Sundays are associated with the journey we are all on, and we all joined small groups to work through the group portion.  It will end in a blaze of serving on May 16th when everyone who is able, 10,000 people, will flip our city doing 800 projects.  We landscape, paint, build playgrounds, serve people, it is just amazing.  Last year, GO Cincinnati was on my birthday, this year it is the day before.  I loved working with homeless vets last year, who knows where I will land for this one.

Part of the journey is about finding out what is holding us back from the heading we are striving toward.  The whole thing is nautical in theme, you know the Peter and boat thing.  We each pick our heading and while it may not seem like some are spiritual, if you believe, and I mean REALLY believe in God, and live for Him, then everything you do is for His glory, and spiritual.

Each week there are 7 or 8 steps in the journey, and each one is designed to bring us closer to God by being brave.  Last week it got really deep, with each answer we put in, the app then asked “why” to that answer, and then “why” to the next and so on.  It made us uncover some things, and honestly it was pretty uncomfortable but freeing at the same time.

My heading is financial freedom, building my business and finances to complete independence.  This may not seem spiritual to you, but believe me the things I long to be able to do require this, and I need to be a good steward with my money.  The root of why I haven’t gotten there was uncovered last week through the steps.  I’m going to get real vulnerable and share that.

See, I loved my life until 5 years ago.  I was happily (so I thought) married to the love of my life, I loved my home, the things we had, our friends, the crazy neighborhood that did crazy fun things together.  I had a good job 7 years ago, and we had stability and I thought pretty much the American dream.  I lost the job, got let go and I was chosen to be released during downsizing because I had made some really poor choices in my personal life.  Then 2 years later my husband asked for a divorce.  This just after I finally found a new job.  Everything I had worked for, loved, and enjoyed came crumbling down around me and shattered my world.

And it was the best thing to happen to me though it took until now for me to really grasp that.

I knew the life we were living behind the scenes, was contrary to everything about God and the character of God. I wanted out of it, my spouse did not.  That was when I began to pray.  We had left our church behind, justified our sin, and I was so far off the path and into the pit of sin that I knew it would take something huge to get us out.  So I prayed for God to change the heart of the man I loved to get us out of that and back where we belonged.  I begged to be out.  I just didn’t see the way it would work.  Next thing I knew I was out…of his life, the house, the job, everything I had helped to build.  I sure didn’t see that coming!

I was both devastated and delighted at once.  My heart was broken, but I was happy to be headed down a new path.  I struggled often while torn between the two sides of emotion, but over all I was content in my new life.

The trouble is content isn’t enough, is it?  I worked several jobs the past 5 years, and the most recent one I really loved what I did but I know God had other plans and pulled me even from there.  Things I knew were wrong and even corrupt there, meant that He wasn’t going to leave me in that place for long.  Same for the relationships, even the one I was in for a year, I was still so wrong in living with a man not my husband.

So at the end of last summer I found myself unemployed again, with this direct sales business on the side that was more hobby than it was anything.  And it is a business in which I know personally the women who are screaming successes, making 6 figure incomes.  But I couldn’t seem to get it really doing much other than paying for my makeup indulgences.  And I was in another relationship that was not healthy for me as he was not a true believer to say the least.

Just before starting this Brave Journey I broke up with the boyfriend and went back to again get my Nurse Aide certification.  If nothing else I see it as a means to pay my bills.  And then the Journey began while I was in school, and oh the things I’ve faced down and learned.

One thing I had to do was face a fear.  For me that fear was rejection.  I’ve dealt with rejection quite a bit in recent years, not the least of which was my marriage.  When your spouse of 22 years dumps you, it is about as big and painful a rejection one can experience is in life.  So taking time to send a long over due apology to someone knowing that they will simply reject me, was something I feared and didn’t want to do.  I don’t like having my feelings hurt, but the journey brought me to there and you couldn’t go further until you did that step, so I did it.  Then came the addressing the storms of our heading, because now that we had faced down a big fear, we had bigger things to deal with.

In the end of that ‘why’ session I knew why I have never taken my business and built to where I know it could and should be.

See, I had everything I wanted and loved.  I don’t want to rebuild.  I don’t think it is fair that I’m the one who got the shaft, had to leave what I loved and start over.  And then to once again have a great job and again see that go away….I’m pissed off!  I’m not the one that did anything wrong but I’m the one who had to restart my life and career over and over again.  I DON’T WANT TO DO IT AGAIN!

THAT is why I’ve never put into my business what I need in order to make it grow.  I had all I wanted and didn’t want to start over.  I think it is why I’m never happy in relationships since my divorce, I had the man I loved and wanted forever with, I don’t want to rebuild that again.  As a wise former boyfriend shared with me, it isn’t just the marriage that we lose, we lose shared memories and experiences.  When we get in a new marriage there is no “hey, remember when our little girl/boy did….” because they don’t remember, that isn’t their past, their memory.  I don’t know how to build new without that and not at all sure I want too.  Every corner of my life has to be rebuilt from work to love life and I didn’t want to do it because it isn’t fair!

Yet way back I prayed and asked God to deliver me from the sinful life me and the husband were living, and restore the relationship with Him.  I just didn’t see that this was exactly how He was going to do it.  Knock down the walls and destory the city, and have me rebuild.  I’m totally released from ALL things associated with my former lifestyle including the house full of memories of some of those very wrong activities.

I get to rebuild something beautiful and amazing with my life. No leftovers, all fresh.  A job that while it doesn’t pay anywhere near what I was making, I am caring for those who some might see as the least among us…elderly souls who very much need the loving care of someone who can provide TLC in the form of caring for their personal needs that they can no longer do.  Feed them, change them, love them.  It’s humbling work and it has so changed and softened my heart just in clinicals alone.  Those people do not want to be there, in a nursing home, having lost all they held dear including their independence.  I relate, I get that, I’m right where He wants me to be.

My business I can now start to build with a totally different perspective.  And NOW I WILL do it, with a new heading and new understanding.

And most importantly facing the fact that I’m rejected by some, but not the One who matters.  I’m a daughter of the most high, the very Creator of this universe, restored and at His feet and under His watchful care.  And because I know Him, as we learned today, I know His character, and to be His I must live up to the character of His child.  I won’t do it perfectly, but I will submit to His authority over my life and joyfully serve Him wherever I am led.

Where I Am Spiritually, Next Time Ask ME

iStock_000019755169SmallMy church just finished up a series called, “Oh The Wonders I’ve Seen”.  It was a really good series, and I’m glad I was there for each message.  But one message really stood out to me, so much so that I got a copy of the message and I am listening to it in my car.  I’ve gone back and watched it online as well.

In the message pastor Tome talked about how we have not because we ask not.  The bible spells that out for us.  And that God always answers prayers, be it yes, no or maybe, they do not go unanswered.  He also touched on the fact that motives behind our prayers might be why we aren’t getting what we want if we do ask.  He talked of a recent trip to a 3rd world country and the miracle that was the answer to prayer there for a little boy.  But he went on that the greater wonder, the bigger miracle was not the healing of the child, but that this little one’s father came to Christ.  That the greatest wonder on all the earth is when a heart is turned to Jesus.  Because on our own we would never do that!

Over the past week my son experienced an in your face reality check about our mortality.  His wife’s cousin died in a freak accident at the age of 42.  It was heartbreaking to say the least. The family is all very close.  Because of complex connections I won’t go into here, many from my previous church family were in attendance at the funeral.

During that event a number of the past spiritual family approached my son expressing how good it was to see him, and how they had been thinking about his parents and wondering how they are and praying for them.  Funny, if you wonder how I am, why not just call me yourself and ask?  Praying for me? For what exactly, as you know nothing of my life or where I am at this time.  One even expressed a bit of surprise when my son mentioned at a gathering after the funeral that he needed to get back home as I was watching his kids and needed to be at church the next morning where I volunteer.  Surprise in that this person wasn’t sure of my spiritual status, per said person.

Seriously, if you are at all concerned with the eternal status of my soul, and you should be about anyone who has professed Christ, why have you not made it  your business to find out?  I honestly, and perhaps wrongly, believe that it is because I do not attend your church that you find there to be cause for concern.

So let me assure you all, my soul is fine.  It is a soul that has repented, been redeemed, saved by grace and through nothing of my own.  It is strictly on the merits of Christ and His shed blood that I will stand one day before the judgement throne and hear “well done”.  Any good I have done once the gold is refined will have been in Christ and not of my own flesh.  I am a sinner, through and through.  I am saved by the blood of my Savior, through and by Christ alone, and I am now a daughter of the Most High God, a daughter of the King.  Outside of Christ I am completely imperfect and worthless.  Thankfully I am IN Christ and therefore priceless.  My name is written on His hands.  And because of where I have come from and where I fell too before taking my prodigal self back to Him, my desire is to serve Him, to go where He wants me to go.  Oops, for those stickler types, allow me to qualify that:  I was drawn by God back to Him, I didn’t do it myself.

The next question I want to answer is the one I have heard regarding where I now worship each week.  “Do you know what they teach there????”  well GASP!!! YES!  I know because I attend there.  Do YOU, dear concerned one, have a clue what is taught there or do you assume that because they have free coffee and soda, and don’t teach the same way you do, that ohmygoshtheycantbesaved?  Yes, they do have free coffee and soda, which serves to help in encouraging fellowship!  People actually smile, say hello, welcome you and talk to you there.  They make a joyful noise unto the Lord each week with a band.  You have an organ and piano, we have drums and guitars.  You sing hymns, and so do we.  You are taught verse by verse from scripture.  We are taught topically from scripture.  Each week I leave there, feeling full in the tummy of my soul, and challenged in my daily walk with the Lord.

I attend with someone who would have turned tail and ran from your church because she’d have been judged harshly for her tattoos and piercings (yes, she would have I’ve been there and been judged too, many times for less).  She not only gets up and goes when she is exhausted, but listens, learns, soaks it up and has a bible now that she is reading.  She came for the free coffee, but comes back now every week because piece by piece her soul is being excavated and she is hungry for more.  Free coffee, soda, bibles if you want one, and CDs of sermons from previous weeks.  FREE.  It’s a very different take on church, but from what I have read in the bible, way more in line with the early church as far as the hospitality, fellowship and JOY in the worship time.  And the teaching, as stated, is topical and from scripture.  They don’t expect everyone who comes in the door to believe as they do, or for that matter to even believe there is a God.  They do expect you come with an open mind, open to learning about God and Jesus.  They expect if you do stick around that you are growing as you receive the Word of God and teaching.  Trust me there is nothing that tickles the ear, but plenty that convicts and then nourishes the soul.  Then I end up frequently going to lunch with one or both of my kids and their families, talking about the message, and through the week even further discussing it.

Where is Marti spiritually?  Where God wants her.  Following Christ, reading the Word, and prayerfully trying to follow and imitate Christ, ever so imperfectly but with a strong heart’s desire to do so perfectly.

A sister in Christ who moved to Tennessee stays in touch, holds me accountable and when she wonders how my walk is going, she reaches out to ask!  She gently but firmly called me out on an area of sin she saw in my life that convicted me much and through a desire to walk the walk, I removed that sin from my life.  I love her deep love for the Lord and willingness to love me and share this journey with me.

Next time you wonder how I am? Pick up your phone and call, text or email me.  I would believe you really are concerned if you did that much.

By the way, it’s REALLY good coffee!  😉

Being Less & Wanting To Be More

“Simply shouting on Facebook about your Bible believing tendencies with a verse quoted every few days isn’t enough to convince anyone that you truly do believe what you say you do. When you post pictures of someone you dislike and you discredit them, malign them and seek to gain likes to yourself by discrediting others NOW we really show what we believe and hold as truth. In this case, we show others that ego runs my life.” ~ Sandi Krakowski

OUCH! Guilty!

First let me explain, I follow Sandi as a sort of online business coach.  She is amazing.  I had no clue who she was, just stumbled on her on Facebook one day because of the pink in her hair.  Being a woman who likes sporting that color in my bleached locks, naturally I was drawn to check out another woman, this one amazingly successful, who is not afraid to be in her 50’s with Neapolitan colored hair.  She is a Christian, and a business woman who is the social media guru for online selling as far as I can determine.

Today in her daily email, she was talking basically about what we truly believe, and to paraphrase, walking the talk.  That paragraph above jumped out at me, especially in light of things I’m studying lately in the Bible.  Mostly about speech, the tongue, words etc.  I’m totally guilty.  When it comes to loving my enemies, when I’m the one being talked about and maligned, well let’s just say it is extremely difficult to find them lovable and act accordingly.

Sandi is hash tagging #BEMORE on everything of late and I love it.  Constantly reminds me that I need to BE MORE than I am now.

I also came across this over the past week, and went as far as to print it off and post in our offices at work, to encourage everyone as we are working through a difficult time in our company with the passing of one of the owners, and getting things back on track:

Start by doing what’s necessary; 
then do what’s possible;
and suddenly you are doing the impossible.
~Francis of Assisi

What is necessary for me personally is to keep studying God’s word.

What is possible for me personally is to BE MORE, pray more, love more.

And the impossible?  It’s in God’s hands!

So, I’m going to continue to BEMORE, follow Christ, read my Bible, and walk out my faith.

Who Are You?

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(this has been posted on both of my blog pages, here and http://www.marvimarti.com)

Who are you who claims to be a believer?

Who are you who claims to have the love of the Lord in your heart but turns your back on the unwed daughters in the church who are pregnant? Or the sons who drove drunk and now carry a DUI and are slipping from your grasp?  Those who have practiced unfaithfulness or have  stolen or any other “grievous” sin?

Who are you to think you know what is remorse or not remorse because they didn’t stand in front of the congregation to declare their sins?  Can you SEE that their heart is hard or see that deep inside them it is breaking under the weight of their sin and they NEED you to pull them to you not shove them away until they ‘repent’ as YOU feel they should?  Who are you to claim to know their heart?

Who is embracing those who grew up in the church but have wandered when you, their church “family” does not embrace them and support them? The world you preach so hard against?

Where is the love?

The love of Christ that dined with the sinners.

Are you really any different than the Pharisees who thought they knew it all and looked down or turned their back on God’s prodigal ones?

Did Jesus make the adulteress woman go before anyone except HIM to confess her sins when she was about to be stoned? or did He show her compassion and love, and encourage her to the path that leads to Him?

Who are you to judge the heart? I thought that was God’s to do?

Where oh where is the love????

Could one person who reached out and loved from the heart, showed the love of Christ rather than shunning the lost and fallen, have made the difference?

And the gossip..oh the juicy tales passed from person to person about that fallen one, did that not make you a sinner too? Isn’t the ground level in front of the cross of Christ?  Where was the compassion and love to reach out and catch those who stumbled and help get them on the path?  Instead the gossip, the shunning,  could that be what assisted them in falling off the path and in to the pit of sin rather than just stumbling?  You who have never been down that slope, have no idea how hard it is to reach out and cry for help, trying to claw your way back up, when the doors have been seemingly closed.  The humiliation carried by the sinner and being so lost under that weight that you cannot bring yourself to reach for a brother or sister…and you wonder, as they’ve talked about you  rather than help you, is their heart going to accept you and help you if you could bring yourself to their door in search of love?  And while you ‘shun’ them, the world reaches for them, loving them, soothing their wounds, wrapping around them until they have numbed from the still, small voice, and now feel the love and acceptance of the darkness because it DID reach for them, it DID care for them, it DID embrace them when the “christian family” did not.

Surely they who fell into sin will stand before God and be judged.  But you who turned a cold shoulder, who demanded repentance instead of showing love, who watched them fall into the embrace of the world rather than embrace them in the love of Christ, won’t you too be judged for how you dealt with them?  Do you really think you will hear “Well done, good and faithful servant” any more than the ones stumbling? YOU too sin every single day with your judging of others, with your gossip, with your less than loving hearts, with those little white lies you tell and other sins of omission…one’s sin may be more evident and glaring than another, but is it any less wrong? Any less a sin?

When you discovered a brother or sister was off the path and wadding in sin, did YOU do anything?  Did you run and tell another, dial the phone to share the nugget of naughtiness? Or did you run to the fellow believer and sinner and do all you could to bring them back on the path and be restored to their walk?  Did you really show LOVE, or just legalism?

Did you fawn all over the ones who joined the flock who could say all the right Christian buzz words, talked softly with a seemingly quiet and gentle spirit, served in so many ways….only to fall and then SWIM within that lake of sin.  Yet the ones who might be rough around the edges, struggled in their walk but their desire to please and worship Christ was there but you didn’t invite them to your home, or your circle of friends, you kept them at arms length when what they needed was your love and compassion.  And yet both those you put on the pedestal and those you saw beneath it, fell into sin…because we ALL are sinners, we all need Christ.

Where, brothers and sisters in Christ, is the LOVE?

Surely you’ve heard that phrase, “you may be the only Bible some folks ever read”.  What sets you apart from the world? OTHER than your haughtiness and carrying your Bible and being able to quote a scripture or two with a pat on the back and “I’ll pray for you”.  You jet off to serve in the “mission field” rebuilding churches in a place hit with a natural disaster, all the while people sitting around you every Sunday are starving to death on the pews in need of real LOVE.  I suppose it is easier to go help a stranger, drive some nails, clean up the damage to buildings, than it is to sit down and help someone you know find their way out of the damage in their life caused by sin.  To really connect and FEEL what they are feeling.

Sure, you can give a defense if your faith is questioned.  You can explain in great detail what scripture says about sin and the need of a Savior, and tell the date you came to Christ.  But can you defend YOUR faith, your heart?  Can you honestly say you have shown true love for the brethren, got down on your knees and held a shattered brother or sister to rise above their sin?  Did you talk TO them, or just talk ABOUT them?

These are the things I am struggling with this morning when I should be at services with people that I love, worshiping my Savior.  Not only do I know those who were shunned and talked about…but I was one who did the shunning, AND… I AM THAT SINNER THAT NEEDED YOU!  I fell off the path, slipping further and further away until I was out of reach and eating with the pigs in the pigsty rather than wrapped in LOVE from my brothers and sisters.  YES some was my own heart attitude, but short of listening then quoting scripture, who reached out? Who left their comfort zone to find out what was driving that attitude, and what was pulling from the other side of the path down the slippery slope?  I pray in the future I am willing to crawl down and grasp the hand of a fellow believer who has fallen into sin, to really SHOW the love I talk about having.

You warm a pew…but are you truly the remnant spoken of in the Bible?  Having been on both sides, I fear the remnant is far smaller than I once believed.

You say you love…but where is the love?

Who are you?

My One Word – Narrowing It Down

myonewordI have participated in a growing movement to forget about New Year’s resolutions, and instead pick one word that will be the focus of my year.  The idea being that focusing on that area will bring about good things in all areas as it spreads.  I picked SEEK the year before last, then JOY this past year.  SEEK God was the focus, then finding the JOY in all things.

I was going about it just fine but this year decided to not only check out the website but to also read the book.  It has been a life changer already and it is only the 3rd of January.

My word was harder to pick, as there are so many areas of my life that need change, improvement or just to find a way out of the door of my life altogether.  The book has been very helpful in narrowing things down.  I was down to just 4 words, all of these words would have an impact on my life if they were chosen as my ONE WORD for 2013:

KNOW – as in really get to know my Savior through God’s Word in extensive study.

REFLECT – as in reflecting Christ in my life every day as if I am the mirror that reflects Him to the world around me.

APPLY – apply the Word of God in all areas of my life.

SURRENDER – as in yielding, surrendering all areas of my life to Christ.  While I do not care for the whole “WWJD”, maybe more in line of what would Christ have me to do.  Based on scripture and not my ‘gut’ feel.  And praying through things before making choices and decisions.  Surrender my thoughts, actions, Sunday mornings…everything to the Lord.  This word will encompass the others as time goes on, so it was the clear choice.

sur·ren·der

[suh-ren-der]

verb (used with object)

1. to yield (something) to the possession or power of another; deliver up possession of on demand or under duress: to surrender the fort to the enemy; to surrender the stolen goods to the police.

2. to give (oneself) up, as to the police.

3. to give (oneself) up to some influence, course, emotion, etc.: He surrendered himself to a life of hardship.

4. to give up, abandon, or relinquish (comfort, hope, etc.).

5. to yield or resign (an office, privilege, etc.) in favor of another.

verb (used without object)

6. to give oneself up, as into the power of another; submit or yield.

The word will be in front of me all year…taped to my dashboard, as my bookmark in my bible (maybe several as I’m all over in there), anywhere I might come across it or the need for it, I will have it in front of me to remind me to focus on that word and what it entails.  It will set the tone for my year, be at the heart of much of my writing for this blog this year, but more importantly it will help me to grow in my walk and faith with my Savior, Jesus Christ.

In addition, I’ve taken the “30 day challenge” I’ve heard on K-LOVE, and I am listening to only Christian music for this month.  Again, it is already impacting my thoughts and mood.  Guess that whole “garbage in (to the brain) = garbage out” could be true.  I catch myself  little more when using less than appropriate language, when a negative or unkind thought goes through my brain, etc.  The music and songs may lack sound theology, but they are positive and encouraging, as K-LOVE often uses as their slogan.