Tag Archives: giving

Man in the Mirror

So how ’bout that Beth Moore and her bible study on the book of James?

If you’ve experienced Beth Moore ever, you know that she’s a teeny little blonde lady whose intensity will scare the bejesus out of you, and that’s just through a video. I’d die of fright and fall into a puddle of my own pee if I ever saw her in person and she looked at me with her actual eyes and smiled at me with her teeth which I’m betting are sharp enough to bite right down to my bones. Not that I think she’d bite me; well, she might, and that’s a chilling thought to be sure. I know I went to a really dark place just now, but Beth Moore freaks me out, you guys.

That said, the woman can rock a bible study, amiright? The video sessions and the workbook have pretty much completed the very easy task of massacring my brains. Also, the book of James: if you’ve ever been a little Catholic girl in a swarm of hot-headed Southern Baptist youth-groupers and you accidentally may or may not have said something to the effect of: “Well, you can’t really be saved if you’re always acting like a psycho-heathen baboon on meth, can you?”…well, this particular part of the New Testament is heart-warmingly validating on multiple levels. Take a listen:

But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.

If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless. Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.

James 1: 22-27

But wait! There’s more!

What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do?

So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.

Now someone may argue, “Some people have faith; others have good deeds.” But I say, “How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.”

You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror. How foolish! Can’t you see that faith without good deeds is useless?

James 2: 14-20.

BLAMO! I wish I had memorized more Bible back in the day. It would have felt great to whip that one out and lay it on the table.

I’m not one to get all proud and cocky, at least not in the past year of my life and between the hours of 3 and 4 a.m. But these passages do speak to me, even more so now than they would have in my teenage years. And not because they’re great verses to present to other people–I am more and more convicted by these words every time I read them.

Why is that? Beth Moore posed this question: When was the last time you were changed by the word of God? Not when was the last time you were touched by the word of God, or the last time you were sentimental over it, or felt guilty because of it, or the last time you agreed with it….but when was the last time you heard His truths and were so impacted that you actually changed?

Personally, I love to get this little baby out of my pocket: “I’m not a stark-raving alcoholic anymore. BOOM. What more do you want, God?”

And here’s God: “Every. Flipping. Thing.” My temper. My impatience. My spending. My dishonesty. My anxiety. My free time. My hands and my arms and my legs and my back. My thoughts. My heart.

So many times I pick up my Bible and I read, and I eagerly nod my head and I pray and I thank God for what He just showed me…and then I turn right around and blow up over something miniscule like my dog is looking at me cock-eyed (which, coincidentally, he does all the damn time.) I tell God that my life is in His hands one minute, and the next minute I’m freaking out because my lunch plans fell through. I say my prayers and I have my quiet time, but then I hop in my car with a to-do list and all my quiet thoughts and calm vibes and good intentions go right out the window and suddenly I’m throwing up gang signs at the morons who won’t let me get in the exit lane.

I am exactly like the man who looks intently into a mirror at his own natural self, and then turns away and forgets completely what he looked like. I pig out on the word, and then I just sit there and burp til I doze off.

We can do bible study after bible study. We could analyze and philosophize until we’re blue in the face, but still not get the point. Sure, we could mentally understand the point, but until we get off the couch and do the point? We’ve missed the point. Salvation through faith alone–it’s awesome. Know what occurs naturally with true faith? Good works. This, btdubs, is happy information for Baptists and Catholics alike.

I’m trying. I really am. I’m doing the bible studies and teaching my children and memorizing scripture and giving things to the poor and bringing food to sick people, all the while trying to remember to switch the clothes from the washer to the dryer. And if you’re like me, you’re probably asking this question: “When do I get perfect, God? Come on already!”

That is one sneaky bastard of a thought, and it pops up time and time again in my head, especially when I’m surrounded by awesome Godly women who have totally nailed this “doers-of-the-word” thing. My friend Libby is calm and wise. My friend Kayla is caring and thoughtful. My friend Lynette is chill every minute of every day. My friend Stephanie is a solid rock of common sense. My friend Paula has more energy than a hyperactive labrador puppy on crack-cocaine. My friend Kim could people-charm the KGB. My friend Kristy invented every craft on Pinterest. My friend Tiffanie is a beast on a bicycle–if beasts look like Kim Kardashian except way prettier. My friend Shanna’s voice sounds like a combination of Fergie and Jesus.

But you guys: Comparison is a torture device of the devil. God put certain talents into certain people for certain reasons. Separately we are limited, but together we could take over the galaxy, or at least the tri-state area.

I can’t be all things to all people. I will never ever have all the answers. I will always be striving and seeking and asking and knocking. Sometimes I will slack off and regret it. Some days I may scream out with my whole heart and tears will burn in my eyes and my body will ache from running to Him. I am not going be perfect, not here on this earth and not by my own power ever. I might read the book of James 50 times this year and still not understand every sentence, but one thing is clear: Love God, love others. The two go hand in hand.

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Lights.

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

–Jesus said that in Luke 4:18-19. He really did. It shocked the crap out of all the haters. Which is awesome because who doesn’t love to shock a hater?

This morning I snarfed croissants and enjoyed stimulating conversation with a friend of mine. This chica is super thoughtful and edgy and honest; she really inspired me and my brain is still churning hours later. Seriously, you can probably smell the smoke.

So here it goes:

Church.

Church and Christianity.

Church vs. Christianity.

Christians in the Church.

True faith. True love. Honest motives. Unselfish behavior.

Family. Friends. Sacrifices. Giving. Prayer.

How does it all fit together? What does it look like to really be in love with the Lord? How much of what comes out of people’s mouths is true? Why are so many “Christians” such jerks about Jesus? What’s with those people who are really “shining”–and how the hell do they do that?

Years ago I wrote a post about why church in general is awesome and why I love and need the people in it. I will not back down on the points I made.

Here’s what I am to understand:

Church is a coming together of believers, so we can spur each other on, and keep each other accountable.

And also roll up fatties of fellowship and fun.

Church is supposed to be a powerhouse, a place where we come and gather strength and encouragement and inspiration, so that we can go back out into the world proclaim good news and junk.

In theory. That’s what we’re supposed to do. And hopefully, in general, that’s what the church does do.

But I know there’s a growing number of people who are not convinced–and not impressed. They look at us “Christians” and the only things they know about us as a group are 1. That we don’t cuss or drink as much, at least not in public, 2. That we quote the Bible when it suits our purposes, and 3. We think Obama is pretty much the antichrist.

(I do not think Obama is the antichrist.)

I’ve heard people say “I love God, I love Jesus; I just hate the church. The people there are hypocrites. Church is pointless. I can watch church on TV. I can worship God on my own.”

I get it. I’ve said that myself once upon a time. And I was asked, at that time, “If you love Christ, and Christ loves the church, then how can you hate the church?”

The church was not designed to be a bunch of meanies that stand around judging everybody. The church wasn’t meant to be a place where a bunch of self-righteous rich people come to feel good about themselves once a week. It wasn’t meant to be a place where teenagers go on Wednesday night to eat pizza, listen to a rock band, and then talk about Jesus for 2 minutes in between gossip sessions.

People are not perfect. Christians are not perfect. But God’s love IS perfect.

The church is meant to be the hands and feet of Jesus here on earth. The church is meant to be good news to the poor.

We can’t do that if we’re focused solely on ourselves 95% of the time.

And I certainly need the accountability that being actively involved with a group of fellow believers brings. I need the encouragement. I need the wisdom and advice of those who are strong in the faith and more knowledgeable than me about the teachings of the Bible.

And the church needs me. It needs me to be part of “the team”. The “team” has goals: Love others. Bring the good news. Be lights in a dark place.

I can’t bring sight to the blind or freedom to the oppressed all by myself.

I can’t even make a dent.

It’s soooo not about not drinking or cussing or bible-thumping, or even Obama.

Guys–if you love Jesus, then the church is a team you want to be a part of. You gotta get in on this. It needs you and all your spunk and talents and hopes and dreams and even your heartaches and disappointments. If you think the team sucks, well by all means, please–come help make it better.

Humanity is one hot mess. We’re warm-blooded, quick-tempered, impulsive, emotional drama-queens who strive painfully for perfection but time and time again we fail epically. But Jesus loves us, and He loves His church.

And sometimes we do get it right.

It’s about reaching out, and helping people. Feeding the hungry. Clothing the naked. Taking care of the orphan and the widow. Loving the unlovable.

Even more than all that, it’s about being human and banding together to help accomplish the task of spreading hope. And I can think of no greater hope than Jesus.


Cat’s Out of the Bag

I’m taking a deep breath and revealing to you people something that I truly believe God is calling me to do. Caleb so eloquently put it the other night: “When God slaps you in the face, you better stand up and pay attention.”

A few months ago I attended this heart-wrenching conference about human trafficking. I was put in contact with a lady who runs a community center in downtown Oklahoma City with the hopes of doing some sort of art camp or painting party with the kids that live in that particular area.

Here’s why this is so important: Kids want to create. Kids want to be paid attention to. When kids make a beautiful painting or score a winning goal, they can take pride in something they’ve done; when they are proud of something they’ve done, their self-esteem goes up. When their self-esteem goes up, they’re less likely to turn to drugs and whatnot. All the problems of the world solved? Not hardly. But maybe it will help a few of these poor little guys get through a rough patch.

Also? This gives me and others a chance to make friends with kids who maybe don’t have a lot of good role models around.

While this art camp hasn’t taken place yet, I’ve been praying and brainstorming of ways to come up with the money for the art supplies for such a  party: paint, brushes, and canvasses don’t come cheap, especially when you need enough for roughly 60 people.

God is working, though, and ideas are churning out faster than I can write them down. And I got to thinking, what other groups can benefit from doing art? Um, EVERYONE THAT WAS EVER BORN. Who doesn’t love art? Who doesn’t just love it? Painting, drawing, collage, sculpture; poetry, story-telling, theater, and song–there’s something for everyone. It’s fun. It’s therapeutic. It brings beauty and joy to the world.

(Personally, I am currently intrigued with graffiti. But just so we all know, if it pops up in my town tonight, I didn’t do it. Because I would never deface public property. Honest. I wouldn’t. I’d think about it, I may even dream about it, but I would never actually do it. At least not anytime soon, because I’m not proficient at spray painting.)

Anyway.

This idea struck me out of the blue in the shower: start an organization that raises money for groups, like the community center, to have these art camps/painting parties (or just to buy them some art supplies to have on hand). This could apply to areas outside Oklahoma City, but also to children in other countries, as part of mission trips. What better way to develop relationships and talk about Jesus than by the pouring out of our hearts and souls on canvas?

Fund-raising ideas are just as awesome: art-related “events” that encourage and uplift, such as side-walk chalk festivals and art parties, would provide communities with um, BEAUTIFUL WORKS OF ART AND CULTURE. It would also encourage families to spend time together and yada yada artistic expression, fellowship, overall FUN FOR EVERYBODY, not just the people that we’re aiming at helping.

Does anyone get what I’m saying?

Here’s what I need: Hardcore major prayer. Pray. For. This. Pray for these children, who live in areas known for trafficking. To imagine a child’s future–growing up in such a mean, scary environment, perhaps without loving parents, perhaps without art, and perhaps without even Jesus–should motivate us all, wherever we live, to reach out to them in genuine love.

Pray that God will enable me to handle these obstacles: paperwork and phone calls, and technical stuff, and details, and everything that doesn’t directly involve painting and playing with kids. I admit to being overwhelmed and afraid. To the folks that know me, this might come as a shock: I am scared of people and large crowds and I’m terrified of big pictures, and of being in charge of groups larger than 3 and kids older than…well, 3. Already my heart is pounding and my throat is closing up. Tears literally come to my eyes. I freeze. Really, actually, freeze.

Other things I need: Think about volunteering at any one of the fundraising events, or at one of the art camps. Pray about going on a mission trip, which may or may not be a long way off.

I will update again soon with more details. Help me spread the word by sharing this post and by liking my artist page on facebook. Soon there will be an organization page to follow as well!

Thanks for all your support!


Well played, Victor Hugo. Well played.

I’ve been watching the hell out of Les Miserables since I red-boxed it the other night. And–ok, fine. Here it is–even thought the Bible spells out the same concepts just as good, I can’t get enough of this story.

I’m being sappy. Whatever. I can’t help it.

I’m particularly stuck on the bad guy Javert. Bless his heart, he’s not even that bad. He just believes with all his might that rules are rules are rules, and if you break them, you get punished. End of conversation.

javert cat

(Can we stop and talk about how hilarious this cat is for a second?)

Javert’s line of thinking is not totally flawed: “Honest work. Just reward. That’s the way to please the Lord.” Sounds reasonable to me! Javert goes on to say that he was born in a prison and raised in the gutter–so if he, of all people, can make good choices, anyone can. And should.

I have a tendency to agree in, oh, EVERY way: “You messed up. This is what happens. Good luck getting anybody to love you or trust you again.” I look down on people who have wronged me, or on people who have just done wrong. Save your breath. Save your tears.

Except what about mercy and second chances? Does justice really mean following the law to perfection, and condemning those who mess up even once? What about helping people who are trapped and suffering? What about people who can’t even comprehend God’s unconditional love because they’ve never experienced it in the smallest sense here on earth?

Save your breath. Save your tears. I am stuck on this. What if Jesus had said these words to us? I’m sick over how judgmental I can be, out loud or in my own head. How can I be so hypocritical? I have been pardoned so many times for so many terrible things. How can I look at anyone and think that I’m better than they are? That certain people are just not as worthy as I am of love and forgiveness?

Oh surely I’m not that bad–I believe in God! I treat people who I love with respect and loyalty, and I value my friendships! I know the ten commandments, and I follow them!

Matthew 5:47 says “If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that.”

God means “Great! You believe in me, you half-ass my laws, and you’re nice to the people who are nice to you. Exactly how is that different from just about everyone on the planet?”

Jesus tells us in Matthew 22:37-40: “…’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

He follows up in James 1:27: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

Jean Valjean seemed to have it all nailed down. Love God? Check. Help poor people? Check. Take care of orphan? Check.

fantine

In Javert’s eyes, Jean Valjean was a criminal on the run. He was breaking the law! But held up to the words of the Bible, Valjean knew more about justice and pleasing the Lord than Javert ever would.

“…to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” Shocker: the world–with all its customs and lifestyles, governments and laws–is not always right.

And here’s the thing of it: nothing–nothing–is stopping us from doing the things that God commands of us. Love the Lord my God? I ought to be straight scrambling to feed the hungry and help the needy. Love my neighbor as myself? The parable of the Good Samaritan tells me I should be showing ridiculous compassion to my worst enemy.

What do these commands mean to us individually? Should I, as a naive mother of 3, prance downtown in the night and hand out buckets of money to homeless people laying in the street? Or can I take a different approach to helping the poor? Should I adopt a child, or can I make a difference in the lives of many children by wholeheartedly giving my time and talents? Should I keep my blog topics light and humorous, or should I write about the things that are important to God?

Do I hoard His gifts, or do I turn around and share them with whoever I lay eyes on?

Can I have this kind of courage? Can I prove that I understand justice? Can I show God how thankful I am for His mercy? Can I demonstrate His love to others who are traditionally unloved by society?

Can I do this? Can I pour myself out for God again and again and again, even when I am tired? Even when I have nothing left to give? Even if it will cost me my reputation, or my money, or my freedom, or my life?

I’m scared of knowing the right I should do, but not doing it. I don’t want to cheer for Valjean, but act like Javert.

I think it’s time to take this movie back.


Have You Asked Jesus To Wreck Your Life?

Friends, correct me if I’m wrong: when Jesus has really, truly come into your life, is it not like someone is stabbing you repeatedly in the heart? Like there’s a giant sharp knife caught right in your chest? And you can’t pull it out, and occasionally the knife twists deeper–sometimes a little, sometimes a lot?

Some things just aren’t funny anymore. Some people just aren’t as cool as you once thought they were. Some foods don’t taste quite as good. Some songs don’t speak to you like they used to.

Sad things are sadder and you’re a lot more sensitive than you used to be.

Taking it further, you don’t have to have that expensive pair of shoes. You don’t need to see that movie on opening night. You don’t care what kind of car you drive, so long as it gets you from place to place in a reasonably reliable way.

It doesn’t matter to you when your highlights are more than 3 months old. Wal-Mart make-up is a-okay. You clean up for church but you still feel slightly grubby (in your last-season-everythings) compared to everyone else, and it doesn’t bother you as much as it once did. You’re just glad to be forgiven and free, and you love being with your new family in Christ.

But it gets worse.

Your eyes start opening up. For me, it was like God was having to pry them open a little at a time, because I was so afraid of what I might see. And then when your eyes do open up, you throw your hands over them because you are scared to death of change–or worse, a call to action.

For a while, you pretend that just about everything Jesus says in the Bible only applies to other people–nuns or missionaries or college students with dreadlocks. That your calling is to live a Godly life (see also: less cussing) right inside your cozy bubble with a select group of friends and family members.

You read the Bible and almost nothing in your world sits right anymore. Not the amount of money you spend on food, clothing, and entertainment. Not the amount of time you spend at the ballpark, or jacking around on websites like Pinterest and Polyvore. So-called “normal, everyday stuff” (see also: typical day-to-day life in the U.S.A.) seems like a waste of time.

A giant, soul-sucking, waste of time.

And then someone tells you that those new shoes? Worth more than a year’s worth of schooling for a half-dozen girls in Uganda. The impact an education would have on the lives of these sweet children who God loves? Would last a helluva lot longer than the crappy new shoes.

And you will never buy shoes again.

Well, not any pair that costs more than $10.

(I will not even discuss the guilt-fest that my long-time dream of granite counter-tops has induced.)

You read the Bible and you get a cold feeling in your guts because “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God,” according to Mark 10:25, and? Newsflash: we are so rich, it’s ridiculous.

The world will tell you to chill out. The world will tell you that you’re more than good enough already, and that you’re taking this faith thing too far, and that you’ve been riding the Jesus train a little too long. The world might even get pissed when you don’t agree–and this world includes Christians and non-Christians alike.

You read the Bible and everything convicts you. Occasional emotional outbursts and temper-tantrums, overly self-indulgent shopping trips, big fat meals every night, little white lies everyday–all things that your mom or your best friends would excuse, all the things that society encourages–become to you what they really are in God’s eyes: sin. Sin, sin, sin.

Then God tells you to deal with this sin. He tells you to own up to it, ask forgiveness, and repent of it–which means you have to stop it, which means you have to stop other things that lead to it. Some of it is easy. And some of it is really difficult and you are forced to stop being proud and self-reliant. And you beg tearfully for God’s help.

Some days your heart is absolutely soaring on a Jesus high. And on those same days, you will have an anxiety attack from hell and you’ll want a drink so bad, and you can remember the smell, and the taste, and the feel of beer in your mouth. You will long for the buzz and the numbness it brings. You’ll cry because you know it is no good for you or for the people around you; and you’ll actually be so bold as to be mad at God for showing you the light.

Sometimes you will consumed with a sense of urgency, all kinds of on fire to tell your old friends or family about Jesus and how He works in your life these days. And when you do actually have time to talk with them, you chicken out and say a cussword or two just so they won’t think you’re one of those Crazy Christians.

Sometimes you will be overwhelmed with the desire to help the poor. And later on that afternoon, you will physically recoil at the sight of a homeless man on the street. You’ll purposefully retreat to your area of serenity, be it your room, or your house, neighborhood, or in my case–your entire town. But you’ll know it’s wrong, and that there’s still work to be done and there’s still people left to love.

And you will once again ask God for forgiveness, and direction, and courage.

And He actually gives it to you.

Along with patience. And hope. And joy. And love. More than you could dream of containing all at once in your own little human body.

And people who used to make you angry? They don’t make you so angry anymore.

And people who you used to avoid? You seek them out–and you find them.

And people who you never thought would want to talk about God with you? They bring up the Bible on their own.

And a wiser, older man calls you one day out of the blue to tell you a story that brings tears to your eyes and renews your hope and purpose.

And you attend a conference or you hear a radio sermon that tells you you’re not alone in your thinking.

Happy things are happier. Forgiveness is greater and love is deeper. Little blessing are huge deals. Everything has meaning and everyone has purpose. Life isn’t as terrible as you thought it was, and dying isn’t a scary thought anymore. The shedding of this earthly body, with all its shortcomings and mistakes; the leaving behind of this world, with all its pain and drama and uncertainty; and the being united with our loving Father in Heaven–that is how you view death now, and that is why it is exciting.

But during our time here, however long or short it may be, we are called to love God’s people; and since He created you and me and all the bazillion members of Earth’s population and He knows each hair on each person’s little head, I can only assume we are not to hold back with anyone. We’re not necessarily meant to be well-liked and popular in this world. We might not be meant to be comfortable and safe here. We’re definitely not meant to stay here at all.

I am so, so, glad–that no matter what happens to me here–Jesus has overcome this world. In this place I will struggle and my heart will break, and I will get so many things wrong. Oh, but because of Easter…the cross, the resurrection…we will see Him again.

“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” –John 16:33


Good-bye, Comfort Zone!

“It ought to concern every person, because it is a debasement of our common humanity. It ought to concern every community, because it tears at our social fabric. It ought to concern every business, because it distorts markets. It ought to concern every nation, because it endangers public health and fuels violence and organized crime. I’m talking about the injustice, the outrage, of human trafficking, which must be called by its true name–modern slavery.”

–Barack Obama

People. I went to this thing last weekend–a conference/workshop, this… thing, if you will, about human trafficking. About oppression and injustice. About the poor. It was called Marked.

And I’m not sure how to act anymore.

The information I learned at Marked has been ricocheting around in my brain since Sunday afternoon:

  • 100,000 people are enslaved in the United States right now.
  • 17,500 new victims are trafficked into the United States every year – at minimum.
  • The United States is the 3rd largest nation where trafficked girls are brought into.
  • Every 8 seconds someone is sold into slavery.
  • Every 30 seconds, it’s a child.
  • The average cost of a slave today is $90.
  • It just so happens that Oklahoma City is big fat sex slavery central, being at the crossroads of giant interstates like I-35 and I-40 and all.

It’s just nucking futs–and these are just some basic boring statistics that I can handle thinking about right now since I can’t stomach the really hardcore facts about human trafficking, particularly prostitution.

I’ve got so many ideas and I can’t stop thinking about the poor children, the poor women; the lost souls, the hurting, the enslaved, the tortured, the unloved, and the forgotten. My heart more than hurts. It’s about to explode.

How could things like this be happening in this world, much less in my state…or 15 minutes down the road? How Could This Be Happening?

What kind of men pay for sex with women who are held against their will and drugged out of their minds? What kind of men pick up street walkers and take them to a back alley and beat the crap out of them? What kind of men look to innocent children to fulfill their perverted sexual desires? What kind of men prey upon young girls, emotionally manipulating them; isolating them from their families, and finally, tricking them or forcing them into a life of prostitution and violence?

Men like this really exist? Really? I am screaming that. I want to punch them in their nasty faces.

I know zero men like this. My dad is the kindest person on the face of this planet. My dad has such a happy voice and a willing heart and he was so protective and supportive of me and my sisters growing up. My husband is the same; when he talks to our daughters, every word out of his mouth is uplifting and spoken with love. He’d die a thousand deaths before he’d let any one of his children get hurt in those ways. We expect so much of our kids and for our kids. We know that they are beautiful, and loved, and that God has a special purpose in mind for each one of them.

And it carries over to all the children we know; those we teach at Sunday school, or coach in T-ball, softball, soccer…friends of our kids, kids of our friends. They are all precious in God’s sight, and in ours.

How could anyone hurt a child?

It’s hard for my thoughts to settle on anything except this: Human trafficking–let me not even go into how people in third world countries would kill for some clean drinking water while I sit here, complaining in my head because this computer chair has no seat cushion and I’m not allowed to bring apple juice into my husband’s office.

It would be easy to become discouraged and disgusted with myself. It would be easy to just stop thinking about the whole thing, for lack of knowledge of what to do, where to go, or how to help. But I have a feeling this is one of those times where God is saying “Jump.”

And thanks to the Marked OKC event, I’m not completely without direction. A group called No Boundaries International is heading up a ministry right in Oklahoma City–loving and helping girls trapped in prostitution, and the kids who live in the thick of it. I spoke to a lady Sunday about donating small toiletry items/artwork/art lessons/anything–and she was extremely receptive, so I hope to be in contact with them soon. Quick ideas that involve minimal participation on their part (since they’re busy actually ministering to hurting people and whatnot) include:

  • fundraising in the form of private painting parties, or maybe even one big blow-out painting party, where I walk people through a painting and the profit could go directly to Project Hope.
  • with their permission, auctioning off children’s art work at our 2nd Children’s Gallery Night.
  • donating a part of my Dustbowl Art Market sales (assuming I am accepted this year) to this charity.
  • donating an actual painting.
  • selling a specific painting.

And the list goes on. I’ve got a headache what with all the brain-storming but if anyone has more ideas I’d love to hear them. And I’m ending with a verse from the bible that gives me chills, because surely God is pressing me to action by burdening my heart like this.

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”

Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

–James 2:14-19


Compelled to Rebel

*Warning: Buttload of pop-culture references ahead.

Alright, so I love the movies and the jokes and the stories and the music and the dancing and the art and the scenery of this world.

I do. I love all the things.

I dig me some Cosby Show and I’m a huge fan of “The Office”. I put a Michael Jackson CD on repeat when I’m driving in my car. I’m not ashamed to report that my kids love some them some Queen almost as much as I do.

Alright, I should be a little ashamed of that.

I think Jackson Pollock was amazing and brilliant even though he was a raging alcoholic who was probably bipolar, and most definitely a rude-boy when it came to women.

I’m irrationally scared to death of zombies yet I find TV shows like “The Walking Dead” strangely addicting (and quite frankly, educational–I am learning what not to do in the inevitable catastrophic event that humankind is plagued by a virus which causes corpses to rise and feed upon the living. Because you just never know.)

Ahem.

Given my obsession with all the awesome stuff this world has to offer, it’s no surprise that I do occasionally (very occasionally) let these unimportant things get in the way of what God expects out of me.

For instance, just this week I slacked bigtime on my bible study–3 days went undone, but I for darn sure watched 2 hours of television a night with my husband. It takes me listening to a whole slew of Christian songs about how holy is the Lord for me to get a good Jesus-vibe going…but after only 3 seconds of Flo-Rida, I’m thinking that da club can’t even handle me right now.

I’m telling you all of this to emphasize how easily influenced I am by what I see and what I hear; by what I do with my time and what I choose to fill my head with.

Our preacher asked in his sermon this past Sunday: “If you have access to clear drinking water, why on earth would you ever go back to drinking from a puddle?” And I sat there, nodding my head in my brain, thinking “Seriously! I would never go back!”

But two days later, I am here to tell you that I have the real answer to his question: We go back because it’s easy. It’s mindless. It’s effortless. And it’s initially more fun. I will not lie. Booty music tends to have a mad beat that I am absolutely compelled to jam to, whereas Gospel music is mildly toe-tapping at best. And Christian movies? They’re flat-out cheesy—I know it’s because they’re pure, and we’ve been completely de-sensitized when it comes to sex and violence in movies, but I want to see some gore! Shoot ’em up! Where’s The Rock? Where are the explosives? Am I right?

I don’t want to say all pop culture is bad (I have reason to believe that during the Apocalypse, Jesus will rock out to Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight”) but being enslaved to it—and filling my head with it, leaving no room for God’s direction—allowing my fascination/obsession with it to have a negative impact on my obedience to God and my service for His kingdom—is bad.

Someone I respected said to me once: “I am spiritual, I love Jesus and all, but I don’t let that affect my life. I don’t let it affect who I am.” I took that and ran with it. I believed that—I totally got it.

And now? I am ashamed to say I ever thought that line of reasoning was anything but hogwash (or, as Bernie Mac would’ve said: “That’s some bull!”) How can we not let Jesus change us?

Here’s some more pop culture for you: there’s a song out called “If I Could Have a Beer With Jesus” by Thomas Rhett. Initial reaction? Enough already with the idea of having a beer with Jesus. Beers are easy! Man up and do some real work—go to church and get your rear in gear!

Second thought? I would like to have a beer with Jesus. Jesus might like to have a beer with me. Jesus might grow tired of my church clothes and my church attitude and my church face that I put on every Sunday morning when I’m ready to worship. He wants to get down to the nitty-gritty–he wants to be open and honest and real with me. Beers? Indicate a certain comfortability with a person–there will be no putting on of airs when you’re invited to have a beer with someone.

Quite honestly I’m not sure I’d even like to have a beer with myself.

And if I was staring into the eyes of Jesus, and if he was talking to me, and I was being real with him (since obviously He’d know if I wasn’t), Corona in hand or not, I don’t think I’d ever be the same. In fact, I know I would never be the same.

Which begs the question: how come I am not different yet? Have I not had an open and honest communication with my Lord and Saviour? How has my relationship with Jesus changed my life, or better: why has my life not changed more?

Here are some things that are different since I have started to try to truly follow Jesus:

  1. The drinking has practically stopped. I had a few beers on vacation in Florida this summer. It’s been months since I touched, or even thought about touching, a drop. Which is good, for me, since alcoholics should probably avoid alcohol.
  2. I am a more patient and attentive wife and mother. Awesome.
  3. I have a supportive circle of friends. Also awesome.
  4.  I read the actual bible more and have gained a slight amount of biblical knowledge. Slight.
  5. I do a lot more activities involving, and pretty much limited to, being at the church building, drinking coffee, eating snacks and watching videos.

That last fact drives me crazy. Here are some things that have not changed about me in the past 3 years:

  1. I am scared to death of tornadoes, zombies, hostile takeover by a foreign power be it aliens or the country of Mexico with Iranian aid by way of E.M.P.s and hand-to-hand combat.
  2. I have yet to reach out to people who are poor in the physical sense and in the spiritual sense.
  3. I sin like a mammajamma.
  4. I think about sinning like a mammajamma, like a lot.
  5. I still feel like I’m not helping, like there’s something more. Like surely it can’t be this easy.

What am I doing? What are we doing? What is our goal as believers? Is it to convince people to come to church and read the bible? Or would we really just be happy if they came to the building on Sunday and drank coffee and drove SUVs and lived in brick ranch-style houses? Is our goal to volunteer for programs that benefit people who are already doing fantastic? Do we avoid people who don’t conform to our routines? Do we love and serve God just as long as that means we’ll continue to be materially blessed, physically and financially secure, with happy, well-educated children?

“Write this to the angel of the church in the city of Sardis: ‘The One Who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars, says this: I know what you are doing. I know people think you are alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Make stronger what you have before it dies. I have not found your work complete in God’s sight. So remember what you have received and heard. Keep it. Be sorry for your sins and turn from them. If you will not wake up, I will come as a robber. You will not know at what time I will come…” Revelation 3:1-3

I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. –Revelation 3:15-17 (NIV)

Is he talking about me?

Am I lukewarm?

I’m no biblical scholar but I’ll tell you what I think: He ain’t talking to the people who don’t ever read the Bible. I think he’s saying “You say you love me, and you say you’re Christians, but seriously? How can you even back that up? I call bullshit—and you’re full of it. Also? You’re kidding yourself. Don’t be lame  by saying ‘well, Jesus, I went to church fairly regularly and kept 7 commandments about half the time. I certainly don’t worship Satan. I gave money to Feed the Children. Btw, thank you for the 3-car garage and that cruise to the Bahamas, that was life-changing.’ You’re either in or you’re out. Do, or do not. There is no try.”

Will Jesus spit me out?

If Jesus was born of a virgin and became man; suffered, died, and was buried; and then rose again on the third day to be seated at the right hand of the Father, and He comes again in glory to judge the living and the dead, I best make sure I’m showing my gratitude—to our God, who sacrificed his own son just to free my piddly soul from the bonds of sin and the pits of hell.

How do I show my love and obedience to God? By putting on a cardigan sweater and pondering a bible verse or two on a Sunday morning. By getting all rowled-up when someone criticizes Christianity . By making promises to God that I have no intention of keeping. By telling people I love Jesus, but turning a blind eye towards the homeless and the needy, or anyone who doesn’t live like I think they ought to. By casting aside people who don’t quite jive with my agenda-of-the-day.

What am I doing? Am I lukewarm?

Sin doesn’t own me, but I still embrace a lifestyle of it. And God loves me, but I’m not honoring Him with most of my thoughts and actions (and inactions). Have I let Jesus change me? Do I love God unconditionally–even if it means losing my comfortability, my family, or my life? Even if it means going places that are scary or unsafe or both? Even if it means giving away all that I own? Would I love God and serve God with a happy and willing heart?

We could talk hypotheticals all day long. And truthfully if I based my obedience on my own human ability, I would fail constantly. I do fail constantly. I just can’t trust my own power–because I am, and always will be, severely lacking in that department.

It is God’s work in us that lifts us out of our ruts. His power—not ours—that breaks habits and addictions, that puts in us a desire to know Him and a drive to serve Him. God gives us courage in scary situations and strengthens us in moments of physical and mental exhaustion.He holds us steady just when our poor little earthly bodies are about to topple over.

So often my prayers go something like this: “Dear God. Thank you for all my stuff and please watch over my family.” But today I offer up another prayer, partially selfish—but mostly, desperate, because something is just wrong and off with what I say I believe and how I am carrying out my day-to-day.

Dear God, I am just disgusted with myself. Please take my heart in your hands and wring it out like a kitchen sponge. Just squeeze it out as hard as you can. Get rid of all the grody junk in me—the laziness, the greed, the apathy. Fix me Jesus. Fix my heart up, just please, please fix it. Fill me up with all the good stuff—use me to say good words and do good works, and then you take all the Honor and Glory and I won’t even ask for a thank-you.

So, really, after that, I’ll probably only ask for one thing—and that’s to stop praying like a 4-year old.


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