Doin' It Halfway Since 1996

being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus

Tag Archives: Faith

Never Beyond: On Giving Myself a Second Chance Every Day

This post is a response to the Never Beyond poster series from People of the Second Chance. The question: Who would you forgive?

All week I’ve been posting on Grace, Forgiveness, and Second Chances.

Tuesday I posted about Casey Anthony and Absent Parents; Yesterday about broken relationships.

Flickr Photo by user darrenjsylvester

If I had two personalities, I’m sure that one would be named Judgmental Jackie and the other would be named Martha the False Martyr.

Here’s a conversation the two women would have regularly:

JJ: Wow Martha, you sure slept in late today. Do you plan on even doing anything today?

MM: You’re right. I stayed up too late last night. The day’s almost over. I might as well go back to bed.

JJ: You know, I have this friend who has ten children. She gets up at 5, nurses her baby, gets breakfast going, has her children ready to go by six. Then they all have devotions at the kitchen table before sitting down to a five-course breakfast. She also homeschools and all her children play at least three instruments. They’re very intelligent. The three oldest ones are spelling bee champions. I think she only cooks whole foods, in fact, I’m sure she does. Her children are all so well-behaved, polite and responsible. She and her husband have the perfect marriage. They never argue and they’re so happy. Even though she’s had ten children, she still looks as fit and young as she did on the day she graduated from high school. I think she’s working on writing her third novel too. She’s amazing. You could never be like her.

MM: You’re right. I’m a terrible mother, a terrible wife, and just an all around terrible person.

JJ: You know what you need? More prayer time. More devotion time. More Bible study. I’m pretty sure that you aren’t doing all you can to be closer to God. You’d better work on that. I have a friend who is a missionary overseas and she cares for orphans. She’s pretty amazing. You could never be like her.

MM: You’re right. I’m a terrible Christian. I could try and try and try and I’ll never be as good as your overseas missionary friend.

JJ: You know what else? Your house is a wreck. Why can’t you keep it clean? It’s amazing that you can get anything done in this house. You need a schedule. You need to clean more.

MM: I am a pig. An awful, terrible, no good, can’t do anything right pig.

JJ: There’s something else I’ve noticed about you Martha. You have a lot of anger. You yell a lot. You aren’t patient. When you do yell, you are very, very mean. You’re also very ungrateful. Don’t you know that people would kill to have what you have? But you’re just so angry all the time.

MM: I’m a terrible, terrible human being.

JJ: And you remember how you were such a terrible friend to that one girl when you were in middle school? You were so mean to her! You talked behind her back. You made fun of her to other people. You pretty much ruined her life. Even though you haven’t talked to her in years, you probably made her lose faith in all humanity and are the reason why she can’t have healthy friendships.

MM: Wow. I didn’t even think about how badly I might have hurt her. How can anyone even like me? I can’t believe that anyone is even my friend.

JJ: I’m pretty sure you’re the worst person ever.

MM: I’m pretty sure you’re right.

All day long, Judgmental Jackie would verbally quarterback sack Martha the False Martyr.

All day long, Martha the False Martyr would believe it all, take it to heart, and fall into a very deep depression because she was such a terrible, weak, unloved, ugly human being.

Do you ever tell yourself your own set of lies? Do you find yourself believing those lies?

I have hated myself more than anyone else ever could.

I have disappointed myself in so many ways. I haven’t lived up to the unattainable perfection I’ve expected of myself. I accuse myself almost every day of not being smart enough or good enough or Christian enough or diligent enough or whatever enough.

I am the accused. I am my own judge, jury, bailiff, and prosecutor. Every day, I’m on trial.

And every day, I give myself the same sentence, “GUILTY!”

Guilty of pride. Guilty of anger. Guilty of disbelief. Guilty of lust. Guilty of hatred. Guilty of doing what I shouldn’t and not doing what I should. Guilty. Guilty. Guilty.

At the end of every trial I throw myself into the cell of false rehabilitation in the prison of if you just try harder.

But my verdict doesn’t matter.

Because forever and always I wear a crown on my head that says, “NOT GUILTY!” And underneath it says, “Debt is Paid In Full”.

By my standards I am an utter failure. A mess. Unforgivable.

By God’s standards I am loved. I am chosen. I am Forgiven.

I have to stop living in my self-made prison of lies and accusations.

I have to believe what God says about me, not what I say about me.

I have to believe that I am never beyond his extension of grace, that I am never beyond his healing touch, that I am never beyond his using me to glorify himself.

I have to forgive myself for being human. Because He has.

He’s paid for my fallen humanity.

He’s paid for yours too.

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Never Beyond and People of the Second Chance

People of the second chance (@POTSC on twitter) are running a poster series called Never Beyond. It will include 25 posters of well-known, famous bad guys – people who have hurt society. I’m anxious to see the posters that will eventually become a touring art exhibit. I think it will be quite thought-provoking.

It’s making me think about second chances. It’s making me wonder about the lines I’ve drawn. It’s making me want to spend this week contemplating and praying about what areas in my heart need grace and change.

It’s making me want to commit to writing a post each day for the next four days about different people in my life who need the grace I have received in abundance, the people from whom I’m withholding it.

Because being a Christian is all about second (and third and fourth and fifth) chances, renewal, reconciliation and rebirth.

Being a Christian is all about grace. Radical, mind-changing, heart-changing, life-giving GRACE.

Will you join People of the Second Chance and me this week? Think with me. Pray with me. Let’s see if we can become people who really do believe in second chances.

At home. Mom, stay . . .

Read the title of this post like you would if you were talking to a dog.

I’m just gonna be honest with you.

Today was one of those days.

There were beads in the ears. There was arguing. There was ungratefulness (from the grownup as well as the children). There was one dress-up princess crown (out of the six or seven that we have in our dress up box) that the girls couldn’t seem to share. And there was this:

Today I wondered to myself, “Why did I decide to be a stay at home mom?” Today I started reminiscing about my working days, before I had children, when I could fit into my cute business-casual clothes. I don’t even think I have any of my suits anymore. And even if I did, none of them would fit. Some days, I wonder, if I ever decide to go back to work, what will I put on my resume?

  • Proficient at cleaning urine, feces (human and canine), and vomit, while suppressing gag reflex
  • Supplier of magic kisses; they make pain and tears disappear instantly
  • Well-versed at the art of breastfeeding and swaddling.
  • Multi-tasker extraordinaire – can email, tweet, facebook, prepare a meal, write a check, and change a diaper simultaneously
  • Fluent in sarcasm, but not the good kind.

Would you hire me?

Le sigh.

Even as I write this, the tension in my shoulders persists, my head’s starting to ache, and I still want to throw myself on the ground and have a mommy meltdown. I want to run out the doors kicking and screaming just to get a few moments to myself where I don’t have to think about where someone’s shoe is or if they’re climbing something they’re not supposed to climb or if they’re writing on the walls in blue sharpie.

But, this is MY life.

And it isn’t always like this.

And even when it is, it’s still a good life.

Because I’m raising two little girls who decided to this without prompting (even though it was the wrong cleaner and even though they actually made it a little worse):

Because they needed to clean up their little sister’s mess. Because they wanted to make mom happy. Because mom works so hard. Because, “we want to show mom that we love her.”

Hmmmmmm . . .

Maybe I’m not so bad at my job.

Or maybe, just maybe, in my failings as a parent, as a wife, as a human being, God’s grace still shines through. Somewhere in this mess of a woman is a dim reflection of Christ who reaches out to my children, who loves them, who teaches them, who nurtures their tender little souls.

So, here I’ll stay. It may be a dirty mirror, but somehow, it’s enough. Somehow, it’s sufficient.

Persecution is Alive and Well, even if it’s only Twitter

I’ve lived a fairly sheltered life.

No one has ever really given me a hard time about my faith. Or my beliefs.

But I realized something tonight.

Persecution of Christians is alive and well my friends.  And I let it into my home tonight.

Photo Credit: Flickr, user Lawrence OP

Tonight I joined a Twitter party (if you’re not sure what that is, read this). During the party, hosted by Christian publishers, the Creation Museum, and Homeschooling Moms, the attendees were to discuss and answer questions about the book The Creation Story for Children in order to win prizes. The prizes were the book itself, other Creation-themed books, and the grand prize of four tickets to The Creation Museum in Kentucky. The hashtag for the party was #TeachtheTruth (feel free to click on the link to see the entire feed – top posts will be displayed first; you’ll have to click the option at the bottom to see the entire feed).

However, a few minutes after the party started, evolution proponents and atheists began flooding the twitter stream. Few had anything informative and enlightening to say. Most of it was pointed at making fun, showing disgust, and outright harassment of those attending the party.

While I don’t like repeating their hate, I also feel it’s necessary that we – who believe evolution to be false, who believe that Intelligent Design (a.k.a. Creation) is truth, who are people of faith – know what lies behind the computer screen.

It’s important to know what our opposition says about us. Should it deter us from truth? Of course not! However, I believe a day is coming when these people will no longer feel the need to hide behind their twitter accounts (most of them did not have actual pictures of themselves). Tonight, it was an assault of cowards, under the veil called anonymity of Twitter, hurling false accusations and slanderous words at a group of people who were meeting peaceably. Tomorrow, they may come out of their homes with stones in their hands, demanding that we denounce our faith or die a martyr’s death.

This is what they think of us. This is what they say:

“if i was that crazy i wouldn’t broadcast about what a child abuser i was all over twitter-where is social svcs?”

“are you a Catholic that believes in Creationism?that’s not church doctrine.”

“Your children deserve that you #teachthetruth so do NOT deceive them by presenting creation mythology as truth. Educate with education.”

“Evil = this willingness to shamelessly impair your child’s ability to comprehend the world on their own, without your bias. ”

“Some top shelf creationist nutbaggery on #teachthetruth hashtag – balanced out by awesome #atheist dissent. Viva la logic!”

“bible is inspiration 2 every child molestor & blueprint 4 infanticide. only deeply disturbed individual teaches that 2 kids”

“Bible stories for children are dumbed down versions of a hateful god.”

They are calling us ignorant. They say we abuse our children. They scream that our God doesn’t exist and that our Bible false. They say that we are evil.

Don’t be deceived. The comfortable life I’ve lived (that many of you also live) may cease to exist. True believers are becoming a minority. People like those who crashed the twitter party seem harmless enough. Most just blocked or ignored their comments. But should a day may come when they’re knocking down my door (or when they send social services to my door because I’m “abusing” my children with religious dogma), will I find them so harmless?

We can not turn a blind eye or deaf ear to what these people say. Anonymous verbal (tweeted) persecution may soon grow into real, personal, outright physical persecution. We may hear some of those tweeted accusations at our own trials someday.

Am I ready for that? Are you? All I can do is pray for the strength to stand firm when I am hated for the sake of Christ.

Be encouraged, though, friends. They may hurl insults, slander our reputations, hate us. But our savior says, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matt. 5:11-12, NIV)

Not Created for Death, but for Each Other

You may (or may not) have noticed I’ve been absent for a bit.

The girls and I took a 2 1/2 week trip to visit family and celebrate a graduation and a wedding.

Then tragedy. Four hours after returning home, we received one of those late night phone calls that no one ever wants to receive.

A house fire at my grandparents’ house. Grandpa didn’t make it. Uncle is unconscious, but it’s not looking good.

Then an hour later. Uncle died due to smoke inhalation. He died trying to save Grandpa.

Two lives lost. A forty-some year old home gone, a total loss.

The rest of us, shocked to our core, not sure if we’re in the middle of a terrible nightmare from which we can’t rouse ourselves or living in a reality that no one should ever have to experience.

And just like that, we trek back across four states to help my family plan a double funeral.

How does one celebrate the lives lived (now at peace eternally with our Savior) in the midst of a grief-stricken tragedy?

How does one hold it together when everything seems to be falling apart?

How does one reconcile that she had expected to receive a phone call about Grandpa, but not like this, and not in tandem with her uncle’s death?

How does one wrap her arms around every grieving family member and still hold on to some semblance of sanity?

The short answer, the only answer, is to lean upon the everlasting arms.

I watched the body of Christ overwhelm my loved ones and me with love in the form of food, encouraging words, gifts to replace what was lost, and the prayers from all over the globe, prayed for/with/over us.

We experienced the hands, feet, shoulders and love of Christ in the most pure and practical way possible by way of this family God created – a group of sinful misfits, a people adopted through grace, a diverse hodgepodge of formally dead people.

We weren’t created for death. We weren’t created to live in this world, so broken, so full of sin, so full of pain. We weren’t created to have to deal with these tragedies that leave us wondering who is in charge and why bad things happen to good people.

While the emotions ebb and flow over my heart, the most overwhelming is that of gratitude for this family God has so perfectly crafted, this family into which I have been so graciously adopted, this family with open arms and generous hands.

Family of God, you helped and continue to help shoulder the weight of the circumstances created by living in a fallen world. One of the reasons we’ve been given each other is so that our frail humanity can bear these circumstances not intended for our eternal souls.

I will share more about my grandfather and uncle next time. I loved both of them so very much and the words to express that haven’t been given to me to share yet.

For now, I can only be thankful for you. Despite what the world may believe about this family, and its messiness and imperfections, these relationships are just small tastes of heaven in this bitter world. The human experience is marked by definitive moments during our short time on earth. When that time is over, if what is left is the overwhelming love of Christ exemplified in and through His people, then that human experience can only be classified as exemplary.

TMI? Or necessary?

I put a lot out there.

Maybe that’s a dangerous thing to do in an age where identity theft is such a strong possibility.

Sometimes I worry about being so honest about myself.

But then I get the comments and the private messages. They’re thankful when I spill the private places of my heart onto this computer screen and out into the internet unknown.

I’m just a stay-at-home wife and mother. I haven’t lived a life that one would call extraordinary. I’ve traveled a bit, but not nearly as often or as far away as I’d like. I haven’t had a growing and prosperous career. I have a nice home, but it is no shape to be showcased in a magazine.

What I do have is a heart that longs for unity among broken believers.

I put myself out there because maybe if I do, someone else will be brave enough to come out from behind the mask.

Because I know that if I’m guilty of it, hiding behind a mask, that others are too.

We hide the ugly places because we fear rejection. We don’t want the condescension. We don’t want the blank stares.

But if we are to find intimacy with other human beings, then we need not be afraid to pull the broken parts of our lives from behind our backs, hold them in our open hands and say, “This is me.”

What I’ve found when I do this, when I lay these jagged shards of myself at the alter and let the whole world see how messed up I really am, other people do too. They may not do it as publicly as I do. It may just be a through private message to me. But they do, they let themselves be vulnerable and say, “I struggle with that too. I’m glad I’m not alone.”

We aren’t meant to be alone in our struggles. But so often we believe we should be. I hate that we believe that the way to muddle through our struggles is alone, sometimes with our Bible in hand, but never with another soul to walk alongside us. Sometimes, for those of us who are married, we don’t even let our spouses venture with us to those secret places.

Do you ever yearn like I do to have the kind of unity that the first church had? Yes, they were human. And yes they struggled. But they carried each others’ burdens. They gave as they had. And none of them needed. Did they carry more than physical burdens? Were they open enough to bare their emotional and spiritual burdens to one another in such a way that older women instructed the younger women, older men mentored younger men? Did they sharpen and hold each other accountable?

Why have we fallen so far from our first example? Many of us realize how desperately we need Christ and God’s grace. But do we realize how desperately we also need each other? I wonder when we will realize how important our relationships to each other are in God’s kingdom. I can only imagine what it will look like when we finally do.

The Battle is Already Won

I don’t want to write this post. I am choosing to obey and write it anyway. If you read to the end, you’ll understand why.

About two weeks ago, something in me changed. A friend from afar emailed me. She noticed something in my facebook statuses. I had been trying to lose weight. And I had been mentioning it and talking about it and posting about it for awhile.

This beautiful friend saw through the joking and the starting of diets and failing of diets and starting and stopping of exercise plans. She saw my hurt. She saw my shame. She saw my brokenness. She saw me.

She saw these numerous, but sporadically placed, status updates and sent me an email. She shared something with me. She gently, but lovingly shared her own testimony. Then she gently and lovingly pointed out that I have an addiction.

An addiction to food.

I read her message and I cried. This dear, sweet sister in Christ, who I haven’t seen in years, looked past the computer screen and thousands of miles and she saw my heart. You know who you are. I know you’re reading. And I thank and praise God so much for you.

She didn’t just point out my sin. She offered hope. And answers. And encouragement.

The truth is that I’ve been turning to all the wrong places to be full. I’ve spent half (maybe more) of my life obsessing about food, obsessing about needing to lose weight, obsessing over what people thought of how I looked. It’s what inspired the post “Dear World.” It’s what inspired the post Take these Broken Vessels.”

If I have to be truly honest with you, which I have promised to do, dear readers, it’s that I’ve been broken for many, many years. Over something as fleeting as appearances.

My dear, sweet friend offered this hope in the form of an online Bible Study.

Setting Captives Free.

The Holy Spirit, through this Bible study, has revealed not only my sin of gluttony, but also the sins of vanity, of disbelief, of laziness. It’s made me stare my sin nature in the face. It’s more than just losing weight. It’s not about another diet or exercise plan that I hope I can follow through with, but ultimately know I’ll fail. It’s about feasting on the Word of God. It’s about throwing off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles (Hebrews 12:1).

Maybe you don’t have an addiction to food. Maybe you struggle with something else. Setting Captives Free has studies geared toward other addictive behaviors like cutting, smoking, alcohol/drugs, anorexia and bulimia, gambling, and sexual purity. It costs NOTHING. Just like grace, it’s free. Just visit the site. Watch the video. Pray about it. If you know you’re supposed to sign up, you will.

This whole process has been refining. It’s hurt. It’s been difficult. It’s been excruciating. It’s also been freeing. It’s been redeeming. It’s been an opening of the book that reveals the love story written for me before time began.

It has been an invitation to fall back in love with my Savior and feast on the words he gives me instead of the food I’ve allowed to numb me. It’s believing that the redemptive work he did on the cross covers the sin that has been revealed and has already overcome it.

I’ve written this because it needs to be shared. I still have several weeks until I finish my study. But I couldn’t wait to share this. Someone has been a slave to sin for too long. Someone needs to know that they aren’t alone. Someone needs to know that there is hope. Someone needs to hear that his or her value comes from Christ alone.

So that’s all. I’m spent. It’s hard to confess this to the Lord, let alone the world. I just can’t hide in the dark any longer. It’s lonely there. It’s depressing there. I was NOT created for darkness. He created me to be salt and light. And in order to do that, I have to be exposed.

“This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.” John 3:19-21

Will you walk in the light with me? Will you be willing to expose your heart?

If you want to comment here, please do. If you do not feel comfortable sharing here, you may send me an email. If you decide to embark on this freeing journey, I would love to pray for you.

Dear Lord. Take these broken vessels.

Dear Lord,

I broke up with the world last week.

It was kind of messy. And now I’m a mess. Because I keep wanting to go back.

I’m tired of all the broken vessels I’ve collected that clutter up my heart. Will you please take them away? I can’t seem to let go of them. I’m trying to secretly hoard them.

But nothing’s a secret to you.

You see the most secret places of my heart. You have for years, even if I have tried shoving all my messes into them and closed the doors to hide them.

But you’ve been opening those doors. All the messes are spilling out onto the floor. And you’re making me look at the pile of crap on the floor, the things I’ve tried to hide, tried to ignore, tried to forget. A bunch of broken, shattered, worthless vessels.

And those vessels won’t hold anything. The load of my sin and the world has cracked them to pieces and they’re useless. I’ve been using them to collect putrid water from the world’s cisterns, thinking it would quench my thirst. Those vessels never held anything of value or worth. Or satisfaction.

My wretched soul cries out for your mercy, your compassion, your grace, your intervention. Because I can not do it myself.

So take them. Throw them at the bottom of the deepest sea. I want them no more.

Give me strength to not grasp for them again. Keep me from trying to swim in after them, and in doing so, drown in the sea that is the broken world in which I live.

Make me a vessel. Let me go to the spring of Living Water and be filled.

And satisfy me completely. Let me feast on your Word. Let me never thirst again.

Thank you for loving me enough to discipline me. Thank you for loving me enough to make me stare my sin in the face and confront what has been eating away at my soul. And thank you for the grace you give, that has already overcome.

Amen.

Jeremiah 2:13: My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.

Psalm 90:8: You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence.

Isaiah 30:1, 12-15, 18-22 : (1) “Woe to the obstinate children,”  declares the LORD,  “to those who carry out plans that are not mine,  forming an alliance, but not by my Spirit,  heaping sin upon sin;

(12-15) Therefore this is what the Holy One of Israel says: “Because you have rejected this message,  relied on oppression  and depended on deceit,  this sin will become for you  like a high wall, cracked and bulging,  that collapses suddenly, in an instant.  It will break in pieces like pottery,  shattered so mercilessly that among its pieces not a fragment will be found for taking coals from a hearth or scooping water out of a cistern.”

This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength,

(18-22) Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you;  therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him! People of Zion, who live in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. How gracious he will be when you cry for help! As soon as he hears, he will answer you. Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them. Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” Then you will desecrate your idols overlaid with silver and your images covered with gold; you will throw them away like a menstrual cloth and say to them, “Away with you!”

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