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Come as You Are

When I looked in the mirror this morning, the thought crossed my mind that I might not go to church today. The last thing I wanted was to have people notice the big, ugly cold sore on my face. The tingling pain began on Wednesday, and this morning I faced the impossibility of hiding the raw sore. Still, I wanted to be in church and knew that I would regret missing the worship service.

I remembered a woman cancelling  a meeting with me because her face was swollen from a bee sting and she was embarrassed about being seen. I started thinking of reasons why someone might not come to church because of embarrassment. Perhaps they fear stares because of their clothes, or tattoos, or weight, or blood shot eyes. Maybe their name was in the newspaper or their mugshot on the TV screen. Or it could be that their child has gotten into trouble or their spouse has left them. Maybe they can’t read, or don’t drive a nice car. Perhaps they’re heartbroken and don’t want people to see them cry. The list goes on and on. And it makes me sad.

Here I am with unstyled hair, no makeup, and the cold sore.

I can’t deny that at times it does take courage to go to church. Some have experienced painful encounters in church. Others have the idea that the people there will judge them. I wish I could say that is never the case. Sadly, though, it is possible that an unloving word may be said or that no word will be said. I would be dishonest if I pretended that I’ve never witnessed conflict or unfairness within the church. Please consider, though, that it is very easy for us insecure human beings to assume that others are looking down on us or that we don’t fit in, when that is not the case.

Here’s an encouraging word! Christmas is the celebration of God’s love being demonstrated with the gift of his Son, Jesus, to the undeserving world. When I read the gospel books of the Bible (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), I see that Jesus noticed the outcasts in society. He made a point to speak to and even eat with the ones who were looked down upon, including Zacchaeus.  When Jesus went to the temple, his compassionate attention fell on a poor widow (Luke 22:1-4), a man with a shriveled hand (Luke 6:6-11), and even the demon possessed (Luke 4:31-37). Think of the blessing each one would have missed if they had stayed away, fearing the opinions of the rich and powerful people there.

Today, I’m reminded of two points made in the Bible:

  1. God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Jesus made this clear in a story he told about a religious man whose way of praying revealed his pride and a humble tax collector who received mercy.  (Luke 18:9-14)
  2. Every person who has ever lived, excepting Jesus, is sinful. We each have an ugly sore spot that we cannot heal. Unlike my cold sore, sin will not go away with time. By God’s amazing grace, those who believe in Jesus can be cleansed from sin and made acceptable to God. Even Christians sometimes feel like hiding when life gets painful, but the support of a church “family” is worth the risk of being known.

I have one last thought to share today. It is not the action of going to church, whether it be once or twice a year or every single Sunday, that saves us. Yes, you can find and commune with God in other settings, and, yes, you may encounter hypocrites at church. People do tend to look at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart. For me, church is a wonderful place to belong; to be encouraged, taught, and prayed for; and to participate in serving others.

Here is what I looked like after a shower, with blow-dried hair and makeup. I’m sure that folks I talked to did notice the cold sore. Still, I’m glad that I did not allow my embarrassment or pride to keep me from being there to sing Christmas carols, see people that I care about, and hear a wonderful message about the Holy Spirit. I hope that you’ll choose to come to church as you are. There is a song from Sidewalk Prophets that may encourage you. You can listen here.

 

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Why I Bought These 3 Books (when I still had 3 to read)

I am not a voracious reader. Reading doesn’t seem productive enough. Fiction isn’t my thing and nonfiction takes effort. There are books that I think I should read or even want to read that I don’t read. When I have “spare” time, I’d rather pick up my crochet hook. Unless you find them at Ollie’s Bargain Outlet or Half Price Books, books are expensive.

Nevertheless, I’ve just purchased three new full-priced books. And for good reasons.

  1. An Author I Love.  When Emerson Eggerichs, PHD, publishes a new book, I add it to my library. Dr. Eggerichs is a pastor and master of communication whose Love & Respect message  has impacted my marriage, my faith, and the lives of others with whom I have shared it. His new book, Before You Hit Send, is not just for social media users, but for each of us to learn “how to prevent misunderstandings and, when verbal or written blunders are made, allow for understanding.” Who couldn’t use a little help in avoiding communication disasters that bring headache and heartache?
  2. A Desire for Greater Understanding.   As I wrote last week, I’ve decided not to bury my head in the sand and go on believing that the problems people have are usually of their own making. There are serious issues that need to be addressed in America. One of those is racism. After I determined to do some listening and reading , as well as  praying and pondering with regard to racial tension, a podcast episode from Phil Vischer, Skye Jethani, and Christian Taylor highlighted historical reasons for today’s sensitivity. During the discussion, Jethani again recommended Michelle Alexander’s book, The New Jim Crow, and this time I headed to our bookstore and bought a copy. Now to take the time to read it and possibly finish a blog post that I keep starting about racism.
  3. A New Favorite Psychologist?  The first words of my first blog post were “In the winter of 1990, a man who I was paying to help me through some depression…” I was in my late twenties and the counselor I was visiting suggested that I might enjoy reading some books about psychology. (I had called him out for trying to trick me into labeling my fears “irrational.”) Twenty-five years later, I found a psychologist on the internet who calls himself Iron Shrink and writes books about relationships and the human mind. I ordered a couple books, but while I agreed with some of his analysis and advice, I didn’t feel confident that he sees God as the creator of our bodies, souls, and spirits.  Then, last month, one of my Facebook friends shared an article about the effect that screens (TV, computer, phone) can have on young children. I clicked on the link and read the article. I noticed that I was now on a website called Mad in America. Interesting. So I poked around a bit on the site and scrolled through the list of writers, thinking that Emerson Eggerichs would be a great contributor. Among the experts’ bios, James Schroeder’s caught my eye. His book entitled Wholiness: The Unified Pursuit of Health, Harmony, Happiness, and Heaven was said to “focus on the ways in which the pursuit of holiness is synonymous with the drive towards wholeness.” Dr. Schroeder practices in Indiana and is possibly my new favorite psychologist. Of the three new books, his is the one I’ve started reading. Wholiness addresses the integration of the physical, psychological, social, and spiritual aspects of our being, something that I believe would greatly help the hurting people around us. Schroeder’s advice is to read only one chapter a day, but I’m having trouble complying.Three chapters in, he says, “If anxiety is the biggest deterrent to love, then pride is the biggest deterrent to truth.” That seems worth unpacking!

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—

this is your true and proper worship. 

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought,

but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.

Romans 12:1-3

 

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My Independent Streak

It started when my husband told me that he would be in Utah on business for 10 days in February.  Checking my calendar, I realized that it would be a good time for me to make a solo trip to my hometown, spend a few days at my mom’s house, and catch up with some family members and friends.  The plans were coming together when a troubling thought occurred to me.  During those 6 days, I would be unable to access the internet to check e-mails since Mom has no connection at all.  When Dave and I have traveled together, this has not been an issue because he has a smart phone and, frankly, I don’t miss getting on-line for a couple of days.

To be honest, it bothered me a bit that being unable to visit the World Wide Web would make me at all anxious.  But, it did.  When I expressed my concern to my son Eric, he suggested that it was time to get a smart phone.  He saw my reluctance to even discuss it and told me that my cell phone had “answered” two calls from him without my knowing it and he had heard me talking to the pharmacist at our grocery store!  Uh….weird!  Combining that information with the fact that the space bar and letter B did not always work when I texted made me realize that I did need a new phone.

Obviously, I am not opposed to technology, but I have prided myself for not needing or even wanting to be connected to the internet at all times.  I had only owned two cell phones and, while adequate for my use, they were both dumb.  Still, with the solo trip less than three weeks away, I was seeing the advantages of making the leap to a more intelligent mobile device.  Eric suggested the Apple phone that he and his fiance both have, noting that it is also the one Dave uses.

Knowing I would need some time to adjust to a new device, I announced to Dave that I was ready to get a smart phone.  That’s when my independent streak kicked in.  Did I really want the same phone that they had?  Couldn’t I do some on-line research and find something that might cost less and adequately meet my unique personal needs?  Wouldn’t it be fun to come up with my own plan?  I didn’t want to go along with the crowd, even if it consisted of my husband and kids.

When I expressed this to Dave, he patiently explained that I could do whatever I wanted.  However, if I got something different, he wouldn’t be able to easily help me set it up and use it.  In addition, since I already own an iPad, an iPhone would be more intuitive to me than one with a different system.   I couldn’t argue with his reasoning, so I consented.

Of course, it was not necessary for me to purchase a black phone like theirs, so I chose a white one with a rose gold back.  Last week, I took that new smart phone with me to Mom’s and learned by trial and error how to use it in various ways.  Here is a picture that I snapped with the phone and uploaded to Facebook – with the phone:

During the week, I began to ask myself some questions.  What is it in me that wants to figure things out myself, hoping to find a better solution than the one that has been offered?  Why would I not quickly accept the advice of the people who love me the most and know me the best (and also know more about the technology)?  Was I just using my God-given intelligence and independent spirit, or was it something else?  Could it be that I have a bit of a stubborn streak?  It made me think of a two-year-old who says, “I do it myself!”  Then the word “pride” entered my mind.

Pride is an interesting word that holds antithetical meanings.  It can be a healthy, positive emotion or a dangerous, egotistical view of oneself.  I have been considering the wisdom of the Bible’s book of Proverbs lately.  Clearly human pride that sets itself up in opposition to the ways of God falls into the negative meaning.  Proverbs 11:2 states, “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.”

When I think about how much I am loved by my husband and sons, I realize that they have my best interests in mind.  How much more does God know me, love me (in spite of my shortcomings), and guide me along His good path.  Here are a few verses from Psalm 119 that I’ve been contemplating.  Perhaps they will encourage you to trust him more.

“Your hands made me and formed me; give me understanding to learn your commands.”  Psalm 119:73

“Great peace have they who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble.”  Psalm 119:165

“I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32

“I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought your precepts.”  Psalm 119:45

 

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