Be Paul

 

 

 

 

 

Thinking of my own zeal, a zeal that I sometimes could turn down a notch, I can see Paul and his mission better. Inspiration whirls through my soul and my hope is that it can whirl through yours as well…

“For it is by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV) Those words reawakened my faith as an adult. It was an ‘aha’ moment where all my questions and all the things that didn’t quite make sense took flight––never to be seen again. That was the moment I was brought back to the true Gospel.

When I think of Paul coming from the background of being a Pharisee, it makes sense. Although, Ephesians 2:8-9 are not the main verses weighing on me, they tie together my point and show how strongly I can relate to Paul. I feel the power in his words and can imagine how he felt as he wrote them. I see him writing those words and then pausing for a moment to bask in the peace those words bring.

Galatians 1 was the focus for bible study last week. I opened my bible and instead of listening as I should have been, I saw the underlined words I felt were important to remember at some point in my life. Those words carried me into my own mind.

“Paul, an apostle—sent not from men nor by a man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead.” (Galatians 1:1) I don’t remember why or when I wanted to remember that verse, but it somehow brings more depth not knowing. Sent not by man are good words to remember and they bring me a strength I cannot hold on my own.

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ.” (Galatians 1:6-7) I had this part highlighted. It is clear that we live in a world where the gospel is confused, twisted, and denied in different ways. I realize we are sinners and never will be perfect. The things is, the gospel is the core of christianity. There are too many that simply get it wrong. They forget about grace to the point they are diminishing the power of the cross. They are instead (and maybe not intentionally) trying to carry the power in their own pockets. 

“…my immediate response was not to consult any human being.” (Galatians 1:16) My uneven blue inked line told me I had quickly wanted to remember those words. Maybe it was because I was engrossed in the words that followed, but knew I wanted to remember those as well. We need to hear this every day of our lives. When we feel the Holy Spirit is leading us to do something, how many times do we immediately do it? How many times do we seek validation from man instead of God?

Galatians 1 is packed full of insight, obviously. More than that, it shows our present world and our present struggle as Christians. Christians are being divided and christianity is under a a microscope. I think if we are honest, we can see that in some ways it should be. Many have strayed. Many are bound by the chains of losing sight of the truth. Be a Paul in someone’s life and point them back to the true meaning of the Gospel. Bring them back to freedom.

Freedom

rain.jpgScattered heavy raindrops began to fall from the sky as I played in a nearby tennis court with my friends during our brothers baseball game. Slowly, the sporadic rain turned into a steady rainfall. My friends and I lifted our arms high and tilted our heads back as we allowed the rain to land in our open mouths. I remember the laughter that flowed from us and the glances that bonded us in that moment. Time slowed and we were nothing else but free.

Sitting here thinking of that moment, I can almost feel the same freedom I felt that day. I believe if it were to start raining right now I would want to run outside and try to relive it. I wouldn’t actually do it though. Well, unless my kids were with me. I would feel like an idiot standing in the rain by myself.

We all yearn for freedom. Look at the world around you. People are always seeking and fighting for it. Or, they’re in pain because they can’t find it or simply don’t have the strength to fight for it. What I see are people clinging to the the wrong kind of freedom or things that are not freedom at all. They just think or hope it is. Because those freedoms are always in exchange for something else. I wonder if deep down they feel a void knowing it isn’t what they really need to be seeking. Those freedoms are only temporary, they are shallow puddles that will soon dry.

Like me standing in the rain. That free feeling ceased. My friends and I became bored and cold. I remember having no towel in the car and I couldn’t wait to get home to change into dry clothes. Dry socks never felt so good. The rain was a fleeting childhood freedom. Some of my best memories surround such freedoms. Childhood freedoms, although innocent and pure, will never give us what we need.

There is only one real freedom in this life and that is freedom in Christ. Many of us “adult” christians know this already. Yet, we hesitate like I do when the thought of playing in the rain crosses my mind. Why can’t we fully embrace this freedom? We’re all sinners, duh. I wonder though…what would happen if we started running and clinging to Him like a child, regardless of what sin was standing in the way? Childlike faith, I believe it’s called (wink wink).

Would we better sway people away from the false freedoms they are rooted in if they saw us clinging more to the truth our hearts hold so dear? I think about my kids and the type of faith I want them to carry throughout their lives. I picture them standing in the rain with their arms up high and heads tilted back because they know freedom, real freedom, never will cease.

Stepping Out

Today we have plans to spend the day at the pool, our favorite family hangout place as of this summer. The weather is not quite warm enough, but we may suffer through because the pool closes for the season after today. As I am waiting and hoping for the breeze to slow a bit so we can go, I sit on our deck and am quite enjoying the breeze. So, I cannot make up my mind if I love or hate it. Oh the fickleness of it all.

There is something in a warm breeze that pulls me in. A few minutes ago, I started thinking of love and life and the different ways each and every one of us sees and feels and lives. It is overwhelming, if you think of it, how different we all are. Yes, we all have common ground and I believe you can find common ground with anyone, if you let go of your judgements and preconceived ideas of people.

If you were to be able to see through someone else’s eyes, I bet you’d see world much more different than you could possibly imagine. I think of my two boys for example. Same parents, same opportunities, same many other things. They’re opposite in the ways they take on life. They give love differently. They receive love differently.

I love my boys and I know they love me, of course. They are amazing in their own ways. I cannot imagine my life without them. One, though, is harder to understand…harder to reach. He doesn’t talk about his feelings as the other does. The other is much more like me. We talk and think things through. We are very much in touch with ourselves. We don’t get through anything without talking and expressing our feelings. When he is mad, people need to listen to how he feels and almost magically his anger dissolves.

The other doesn’t want to talk, he is quite the opposite. He does better when people let him be to sort through it on his own. I feel as though it is his way of maintaining control. Maintaining control over his life gives him peace. He appears to be more dismissive toward people who feel the need to talk. So, expressing feelings towards him sometimes feels as though he doesn’t care. I know he does care. He has a huge heart. He just is different.

Why wouldn’t someone want to talk through their feelings? One boy thinks.

Why does someone need to talk through their feelings? The other thinks.

God made people to have their own unique strengths. Those strengths can make it hard for people to understand each other. That could be where where we screw up. I mean, we aren’t God and we shouldn’t think we hold so much power as to understanding where people come from all the time. Do we even have the right to? We need to start seeing that understanding is sometimes overrated. Maybe it’s in the not understanding where the true beauty lies. Because, that is when we step out of ourselves and into something bigger and more meaningful…unconditional love.

The end.

Floating

IMG_0474One of the things I have taken from my life changing moments, the big and the small, is the realization of how tiny I am in the big picture. Yes, I know my tiny self can make a huge impact. I like to compare it to being a piece of the puzzle. One piece can close gaps and bring fulfillment. The thing is, until I see the other pieces being important as well, I cannot truly fit. I must be able to see beyond myself.

Sometimes, I try to wriggle my way in to find I don’t fit. I need to see that I may be trying to fit in the wrong puzzle. I want to fit where I want to fit. I see the place that makes the most sense. I see the place that is easy and comfortable. Maybe at one time I did fit in a particular puzzle, but something changed. I grew or simply changed…or the other pieces around me changed. I could go on forever with the possibilities.

Let me just face it. I am not carved piece of cardboard. The puzzle is simply a metaphor, a weak one if that. I don’t just belong to one puzzle. I am moldable and so is everyone else. Isn’t that beautiful? Inspiring? Scary? Yes, yes, and definitely yes.

For someone like myself, the transition from one place to the next is terrifying. It can feel as though I am floating around frantically looking for my safe place to land. I like having my place. Not just in the physical sense, of course. Even in friendships or other relationships, I need my place. I’m not thinking of any friendship or such right now, though. My point is that I seek purpose in all aspects of my life. Is it good or bad? Maybe it is both.

When I find myself floating around I must remember He is molding me or molding those around me. My safe place is not always in the purpose of today or where I fit into the puzzle, but it in the purpose of the days to come and where I may soon fit. It is in trusting His lead that my faith is strengthened. It is in the floating into the unknown that His power is shown.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails” (Proverbs 19:21).

 

 

 

What exactly is the good?

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As I sat waiting for Luke’s game to begin, I played with blades of grass at my feet. My mind was as calm as a glassy lake; there was not a wave nor a ripple in sight. But then my phone rang. It was my dad. He never calls me on the weekend, I thought as I answered my phone.

In one second my frame of mind shifted. The pain of this world, oh the pain. I wasn’t surprised by the news, yet each word stung. Sometimes it is the unsurprising news that hurts the most. I always hope people will respond or do differently than what I see coming. I much rather the stories of people overcoming life. The bad in life, that is. I love when people prevail.

It is a strength and a weakness that I strive to find the good in all things. The problem arises when the pain of this world is deeper than the seemingly good it can bring. I hate to see people give up on life. They throw in the towel and don’t look back, and they don’t look forward either. They remain stuck unable to move. Maybe that is why I need Romans 8:28, we all need Romans 8:28.

Wait.

What exactly does that even mean? I just talked about pain and giving up on life. Now I am encouraging a bible verse that talks about “in all things God works for the good”? Yes, I just said that and that.

Yesterday, after I wrote my blog post about this verse, I walked into my kitchen and there on my table were mason jars full of carnations. They’ve been sitting there for almost a week, but I saw them as if they just magically appeared.image I focused in on the pink ones. Romans 8:28 reminds me of my grandparents, it reminds me of my grandma’s death. Since the verse keeps popping up I have been thinking of her. Pink carnations were her favorite. They’ve been here in my house and yet it slipped my mind until that moment. As if that were not enough, I went to sit on my couch. My phone was in my hand because I was getting ready to clean and was going to put music on. (Who likes to clean without music?) I sat, thought about my grandma, pulled myself together, and then put Pandora on. I began to stand up when the song Homesick came on. It was the song they played at her funeral.

The tears flowed, I pictured my grandma’s face, and then peace came. My grandma was touched by the pain of this world, just like us all. Her pain is no more, though. She’s home. It got me thinking. That’s it, I’m homesick. We are all homesick. That is why it hurts so bad. We know we don’t belong here.

We are touched by our bad choices, other people’s bad choices, unexpected news, disease, death, and etc. We must remember our hope and truth lie in the fact that sin or anything that happens as a result cannot ruin God’s plan. His mind is set on our eternal salvation. His mind is set on bringing us home. That is why He sent His son Jesus to die for our sins. Stop and brew on that for a minute. That is powerful stuff. Nothing can stop His plan and nothing can stop His purpose of eternity.

The challenge lies not in my knowing this. It lies in my sharing this. It lies in you sharing this. How can we show people the good in God’s purpose? How can we show them that the light shines in the darkness and the darkness will not prevail?

Without the Black and White

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I remember the first time I watched the Wizard of Oz. My mom was excited to have all of her children old enough to watch one of her favorite movies. My brothers and I sat on the floor in front of the tv, my parents on the couch, and all of us chomping on popcorn. Remember the aluminum foil pan popcorn? That was the ish back then. Anyhow, I could barely sit still when I heard the MGM lion roar. The movie started and… it was black and white? I had to sit through an old black and white movie?

My mom told us to just watch and pay attention. It would be amazing, she said. I trusted her and I also knew whining would just get me sent to bed. So, I waited. Dorothy opened the door and the beautiful colors captured me. I remember my mom’s giggle as she listened to us kids ooh and aah. It was a magical moment.

It became an annual tradition to watch the Wizard of Oz. Back then, we didn’t have On Demand. We had to wait until it came back on television. Now, we don’t know anything about the excitement of waiting like we did back then. I remember when we recorded it for the first time. I could watch it whenever I wanted. Woohoo, right? I thought so until I watched it a few times and the family tradition faded. The fun in waiting ended. I learned the magic isn’t so magical without the waiting.

As a kid, I never fully appreciated Good Friday. It wasn’t a nice day to think about. Jesus having to die was sad, it wasn’t exciting. It was like the beginning of the Wizard of Oz. All I wanted was for the door to open. I wanted the beautiful color, not the black and white. I wanted to hear about Jesus rising from the dead. I was a kid so I would be lying if I didn’t also admit I wanted the Easter egg hunt, the pretty dress, and the candy (of course). All I wanted was the magic, not the things leading up to the magic.

I now love Holy Week. I love the reflection and the humility it brings. I always try to carry the beauty of the “black and white” into the “technicolor” and the days beyond. It is easily my favorite week of the year. It sort of snuck up on me this year, though. Tuesday, I kept thinking of how I wanted it to slow down. I wanted to feel the waiting a little bit longer.

It wasn’t until Wednesday night during my class that I felt my usual Holy Week feelings. I told the kids we were going to have a (sort of) Last Supper together. They were excited to say the least. It took them a bit to calm down and I almost thought it wasn’t going to work out.

They did calm down. I read the verses as we talked about how it must have felt to be there. How did Judas feel? Peter? Jesus? We passed out bread. We talked about what it meant. We ate. I poured grape juice. We talked about what it meant. We drank. They were engaged. The verses were familiar to them and of course they started talking about communion. We talked about the steps they need to take in our church to participate in communion when they are older. I got my Holy Week feeling back. Funny how teaching has a way of helping me as well. I guess it goes to show why it is important to use your unique gifts and talents.

Even as an adult I try to rush to the magic at times. I have to remind myself to stop and trust God. I look back and see the beauty in the steps leading up. I thank God for the steps leading up––no matter how hard they may be at the time.

Without the blood shed on the cross, we can have no salvation. Without the black and white, we would not have the color. It is the same with life. We must not rush to get to the color. We have to wait and see and feel the beauty in the black and white. It is only then that we can see and feel the true beauty and magic in the color.

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This is a painting I had my class do on Wednesday night after our lesson. This was my son’s. I loved the colors each kid chose. I loved seeing the anticipation they felt waiting to see their finished project. I especially loved their smiles when I oohed and aahed at their work. 

Finding the Joy in Parenting


Choices. As a parent you are always making choices. Sometimes your brain is dizzy with all the things you need to decide. You want what is best for your kids and many times it is hard to measure the results. You make a choice. You hope and pray it was the right one. You wait. You breathe a sigh of relief when you find you did the right thing. You feel ill when you find you did the wrong thing. Sometimes you wait years to see if it was the right choice. Sometimes you will never know.

You have information thrown at you from all directions. It is as though everyone knows how to be the perfect parent. Well, until it is your own child that you are parenting. Because, once you look your child in the eye and feel the overwhelming love, you just know there is too much at stake to even try to pretend you know what to do all the time. Once you see your child struggle or mess up, you know there is no cookie cutter way to parent your imperfect and unique child…

How do you ease your weary mind and embrace the joy of parenting? The answer is a little different for everyone. Again, there is no cookie cutter way.

I feel like I do a decent job (most days) at enjoying this sometimes arduous journey. Here are some tips I have picked up along the way:

  1. If it isn’t broke, simply leave it alone. If something works for you and your family then screw what everyone else thinks.
  2. Do listen to advice, though. Some people know more than you. But don’t forget, it is your choice on what advice you follow.
  3. If you don’t follow someone’s advice, don’t feel guilty. Seriously, don’t. You know your child the best. You also know your own limits. You don’t owe anyone an explanation.
  4. Honor your limits. Honor your spouse’s limits. Honor your kids limits. Enough said.
  5. Don’t judge other parents. You are not in their shoes. You do not know their child as they do.
  6. Don’t compare and don’t ever compete. No one enjoys being around those who try to compete or get their kids involved in such nonsense.
  7. Allow your child to be who they are, not who you think they should be. This may be hard, but, your kids know themselves better than you know them. (I have to thank my parents for doing a great job at this one.)
  8. Forget the rules sometimes. Just have fun. Sing loud, dance, and get a little goofy with them.
  9. Love them. Figure out how they feel loved. Give it to them unconditionally.
  10. Let them love you. Accept the way they show love and appreciate it.
  11. Most importantly, trust God and His will for your kids. God’s got this, guys. He really does.

Feel free to share any tips I may have missed.