Lenten Challenge Check-In #1

 

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.”

Isaiah 30:21

I meant to get this up yesterday, but Wednesday afternoon life got a little bit more difficult…in a spiritual-attack-what-do-we-do-now-can’t-we-just-catch-a-break sort of difficult. Everything is okay – or it will be, with time – but I responded in the worst possible way.

Wednesday night, we ended up near Chick-Fil-A and I had an ice cream.

Thursday morning I woke up with the worst headache I’ve ever had in my life. Almost considered a trip to the ER but got through, knowing it was a combination of the ice cream and stress.

Thursday night, I had a bag of m&m’s, my favorite comfort food.

To be honest, they tasted weird. I’m just not used to that sort of sweet anymore and when I do eat chocolate, it’s dark that tends to be at least 85-90% cacao.

I slept horribly.

Friday morning, the difficult got even more difficult.

And I ate two donuts.

Here’s the thing: I can’t eat gluten. I don’t have celiac, but I do know I am very sensitive…I just didn’t know where discomfort turned to pain. I’ve mistakenly eaten small amounts of gluten in the past year and half, and ended up with a little mental fogginess, headaches, some minor aches and pains. Nothing too horrible and, while I know it’s something I need to just stay away from, that question of where bad hits horrible lies.

Apparently, two donuts is the line. I ended up on the couch all day, my joints hurting and anxiety mounting. My headache banging. Hands shaking. Difficulty breathing. And the aches I get a few inches on either side of my elbows and knees and hips – the ones that seem to bore into my bones and that I haven’t felt in over a year – hit hard.

In my devotional guide yesterday, I came across Isaiah 30:21 again. It’s a verse I’ve loved and held to for a long time, but one that I sort of forgot about.

I read it on just the right day. I love it when God does that.

I wasn’t looking in the right direction – instead of turning to God to get through this difficult week, I turned to food.

I forgot that He brings healing and hope and peace and sustenance.

I turned instead to things that bring pain – physically and emotionally – and guilt and frustration.

My prayer and challenge for this week: to stay tuned into that Voice, the one that keeps me on the path He has set for me toward healing and wholeness and victory.

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My Lenten Paleo Challenge

I’ve been praying quite a bit about how I want to observe Lent this year – it’s been a huge part of my spiritual life for several years now, and it’s something I look forward to. We’re doing Seek God for the City from WayMakers as a church and community, but I find the physical act of giving something up to be so powerful and I want to add that component as well.

From a blog post I wrote three years ago:

It (Lent) can be a time of prayer and preparation for Easter, it can be a time of introspection and self examination and also a time of repentance…Let’s face it…these are stressful times we’re living in. Perhaps more stressful than many of us have ever known. What I learned about observing Lent last year was that it is an incredible way to refocus, to rid myself of the distractions of everyday life, to go deeper in my relationship with my Savior…to bring my life closer in-line with the life God would have for me.

The problem is…I tend to look at Lent as a time to focus on food issues as a way of self-denial, and it’s not easy when:

I can’t eat wheat.

I don’t drink alcohol.

Or soda.

Or much of anything but water and the occassional tea.

Sugar isn’t a part of my diet.

Neither are grains.

I’m not giving up meat. (did it. felt awful. there’s a reason I’m paleo, friends!)

I don’t watch too much TV.

And I’m already working to limit the amount of time I spend on the computer and my iPhone.

I look to Lent as a season to break areas of bondage – choosing to use the deprivation as a tool to turn me towards God in daily need. After a lot of prayer, I’m choosing this time to go strictly paleo – back to Whole 30, something that has evaded me since I finished my first one. Too much dark chocolate and too many paleo baked goods have found their way back into my regular eating. It’s an area I struggle with daily.

There are some odd similarities between a strict paleo diet and the act of denial for Lent – they’re not easy. Self-sacrifice isn’t something that comes easily, but with it comes huge rewards. Through the sacrifice on the cross that we look to through Lent, we are given the opportunity to know God intimately. Through the sacrifice I make with eating, I have a better relationship with my own body and with the world around me. I honor God in a most primal way by eating in a way that allows my life to be used in the way He wants.

I’ll be doing a Friday update each week, with my thoughts and the things God is teaching me during this season.

Are you observing Lent this year? Is God speaking to you about any distractions or idols you need to bow to Him?

Merry Christmas

Sure, Charlie Brown, I can tell you what Christmas is all about.

Man’s maker was made man,
that He, Ruler of the stars, might nurse at His mother’s breast;
that the Bread might hunger,
the Fountain thirst,
the Light sleep,
the Way be tired on its journey;
that the Truth might be accused of false witness,
the Teacher be beaten with whips,
the Foundation be suspended on wood;
that Strength might grow weak;
that the Healer might be wounded;
that Life might die.

– Augustine of Hippo (Sermons 191.1)

pure grace

We welcomed a new family member this weekend – a niece, darling as darling can be, totally precious and already loved beyond measure.

Katrina Ann, born Sunday November 6th.

She came at an interesting time for me – I realized this weekend that it’s been one year since Tom got the news that his position at our former church was being cut to part time…which, among other things, necessitated his decision to leave…which lead us to move home to California..six months of unemployment…through which God brought us to where we are now. Truly, I know we are exactly where He has called us to be, and that’s a wonderful thing to know.

And through all of this – the good times and bad, the frustration and fear and joy and praise – I have never been more aware of God’s presence and His grace.

It’s been an amazing year, and Katrina is the cherry on top.

As I was driving to meet sweet Katrina last Sunday morning, our local Christian station seemed to be playing just for me. Every worship song I’ve come to love, so many of the contemporary lyrics that speak to my soul – I was in tears most of the drive as I pondered how could already love someone so much that I hadn’t even met yet.

This song came on.

And the tears became sobs.

I was overwhelmed – by the love I felt for this precious niece, for my sister-in-law, for my brother who finally was a Daddy after wanting to be one for so long.

And I was overwhelmed by the love of our Father for us. As much as I already loved little Katrina…as much as I love my own children..it pales in comparison to the love God has for us.

There are moments that God’s grace crashes over me, knocking me over like the waves I used to jump at the beach. Yet, it doesn’t ebb and flow like the tide – it’s constant, never ending, never failing. It’s so easy to miss it, to miss His hand in our every day lives, to forget His presence in all we do.

I’m a sucker for the meanings of names, and I love seeing how we grow into them.

Katrina means pure.

Ann means gracious and merciful.

Pure grace.

The best reminder of all.

wordless wednesday: great pumpkin party

 

 

Just a few shots from our first annual Great Pumpkin Party here at the parsonage. It was the easiest party to put together – pumpkins were donated, we picked up some carving kits, set out tables and ordered pizza. My brother and sister-in-law sweetly brought their projector and we topped the night off with It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. It was a wonderful, multi-generational evening – low key, but it still gave people an opportunity to see a little glimpse of Jesus.

And I am reminded again that we are exactly where God wants us!

on purpose

A few weeks ago, one of the churches in our small town hosted Sonshine Saturday – an afternoon of Southern Gospel music and outreach at one of our local parks. The other local churches were invited to join them and have food booths with items to sell to concert-goers.

It was a very hot afternoon, but at least half a dozen churches staked out spots around the stage – selling everything from Mexican food to hot dogs and burgers and even baked goods.

And as we sat there through that very hot afternoon, we realized that other than musicians and churches selling items, there were maybe a dozen people who came.

Now, there are a lot of reasons turn out could have been so small – it was in a different location than the previous one, which had been far more centrally located…it was the first homegame for the Pop Warner football teams…did I mention it was really, really hot?…but the more I’ve thought about, the more I’ve come to believe that the purpose didn’t quite match the event or really even the town. Ultimately something that could have reached and introduced a lot of people to the Gospel didn’t.

And that’s something that’s really been on my mind and in my prayers as we make these plans to reach more toward children, youth and families at our church.  As we committed this month to prayer and planning, we really began to see the brokenness and need in our community – a community that is desperate for Christ.

How do we reach people where they are, something Jesus made a practice of doing? While I rather enjoy some Southern Gospel, a hip hop or country concert festival would have been something that would have had a bigger draw. How do we engage culture and people the way Jesus did, using terms they were familiar with in their time? Words like sanctified go over well with most churched people…but someone just walking by would have no idea what it meant. How do we see the needs? The real needs – not just the superficial ones (though we’re working on meetings some of those too). Over and over and over in Scripture, we see Jesus go that extra step and get to the root of things. How can we do that?

How do we bring lasting change and a personal knowledge of Jesus Christ to a community that is largely unchurched or for whom church going is cultural?

With relationships.

We could have a concert every single weekend, and still not see the family of God grow in Dos Palos. It’s going to take personal relationships – getting to really know people, becoming invested in them. We no longer live in a world where the church is trusted implicitly, and we live in a town that has been harmed so deeply by pastor’s in the past (sometimes I think pastor’s should have to take the Hippocratic oath – first, do no harm).

For the church to grow and new people to be reached (both in our community and in the world), I’m more and more convinced that purpose, intent, transparency from pastors and ministry leaders and relationship will become even more vital than they are now. For our little corner of the kingdom, we’re starting to plan some get-togethers – family and fun oriented – and we’re prayerfully working hard to make sure that the method matches the purpose.

First up?

It’s the Great Pumpkin Party, Charlie Brown! An easy night, here at the parsonage, with pumpkin carving, pizza, popcorn balls and watching It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. The more Tom and I have talked and prayed, the more we’ve come to realize that this a low-key, family focused event would be a great way to begin to build relationships with families – whatever shape or form those families may happen to take.

We have a few more get-togethers in the works, and I can’t to see how God is going to bring this plan and vision together.

And we’d certainly appreciate your continued prayers!

the thing about praying


As I’ve commited this month to praying for youth in our church, I’ve been amazed at how God has both answered and challenged me.

That’s really the thing about praying, isn’t it?

The more you commit to hearing God’s voice, the more you actually do – and sometimes, you find He’s telling you something entirely different than you expected to hear.

We’ve been praying specifically about youth – how to start a youth program in this community, how to reach the kids in a way that really connects with them, what sort of curriculum and teaching styles, even making plans and setting dates – and yesterday, in a few conversations with Tom, we realized that God’s calling us to something more.

We are in a position that not many churches find themselves in.

We’re starting from scratch. We’re not trying to rebuild or restart a program. There’s nothing to dismantle, no sacred cows to tiptoe around. At the moment, we have a youth Sunday School that works and nothing else for any age group.

We have a clean slate, a fresh start and get to lay the rails our selves…to use every cliche I can think of.

Which means we can do youth ministry the way Tom has always wanted to – as part of a larger family ministry. For 16 years, he’s watched youth ministries do a great job at planning fun events and even discipling youth…but in more cases than not, the families remain unchurched and unchanged. We’ve watched as kids and youth learn to love church events…but fall away from God once they graduate to big church and they’re no longer being so actively entertained. And we’ve watched over and over as kids come to church, find faith and lose it quickly because there is no family support.

The one overwhelming need God has placed on our hearts from the first is that we reach beyond just youth to their families – whatever those families happen to look like – He’s calling us to reach out to the families of this community and to serve them.

We still don’t know what that’s going to look like, ultimately, but God has given us a clear vision of a few first steps that I’m excited about taking. So we plan and we start with what He’s given us…and we just keep praying. God’s got a timeline for it all – it might be a six month plan or it might be a six year plan – and we’ll keep praying and working as He shares it with us.

Will you continue to pray with us?

praying for: youth

It isn’t enough to raise your children in church; you must raise them in Christ.
~Rick Warren

It’s September.

That’s just totally surreal.

It marks the beginning of Tom’s third month in the pulpit, and it marks the beginning of a month I’m taking to pray specifically for youth at our church. I, along with several church leaders, have a strong sense that God is calling us to do something…we just don’t know what it is.

Tom and I have been discussing youth programming and goals, to the point that I think he’s probably tired of it already. We are wanting to be very intentional, as well as very careful of not starting anything that isn’t fully ready to go. It’s not going to profit anyone for us to throw some half-baked ideas out, only to have them flounder.

So far, my main prayers are:

  • That we find a way to work in partnership with the family, and not focus solely on youth. Fifteen years married to a youth pastor has taught me that youth ministry is as much about the family as it is the youth. And no youth ministry has a chance of succeeding without parental support.
  • That we be able to reach into a small, agricultural community that doesn’t necessarily value church attendance, with many broken and fractured families. I feel as if we’re starting from scratch.
    In so many ways.
  • Music is a necessity, and I have no idea how to make that happen in this very small town. Our music ministry at church consists of several members that play the piano and organ – I’d love to find someone willing to offer up one night a week to lead more current/youth oriented worship, and it might just take a miracle to find them.
  • We’re currentkt have a youth Sunday school that is handouts and Bible stories, but I’m absolutely convinced that we’re going to need an all new paradigm. Conversational, real life, Bible based, applicable and speaking to the lives of kids in Dos Palos.

Easy, right?

I know.

Not exactly.

I’m reading Think Orange by Reggie Joiner to get more of a vision of what this family and church partnership can look like, preparing myself to lead a small group of youth should there be need when Starting Point begins next week and asking our church to pray as well on Sunday.

I’m praying that God would develop a vision and a plan, that we would be open to any crazy ideas.

I’m praying that when the time comes, we’re ready and able to move forward.

And I’m praying for the youth of this community. Meth is a huge problem here. Gangs are a big issue. The unemployment rate is astronomical – I believe one of the highest in the country. Our school district is a bit of a mess due to budget issues.

The youth of this town need to know Jesus, and I’m committed to doing what He calls me toward that purpose.

Will you please join me in praying this month?

gratituesday: prayer walk

Seven months ago, we moved back to my home town and to the ranch my parents have lived on since I was a baby. 

Seven weeks ago, Tom was named pastor of a local church and we moved into town, to a a parsonage that seems to have been made to order for our family. It’s been a season of change, but one constant for me has been exercise. Most mornings I spend some time at the gym, but I’m finding a huge blessing in walking through this small town on mornings I just can’t make it.

Out the door, through land that once belonged to my great-grandparents before there were streets and around the corner, past the homes of friends and family and strangers alike……praying for those who live in the houses I pass and all those who live here, that their hearts would be awakened for a God who loves them. 

Past the hospital where I was born, now more of a convalescent hospital…praying for those who make it their home, and for the staff and families who care for them.

Up to Main Street, past closed business after closed business. Truly the only ones that ever seem to be bustling are the donut shop and the pharmacy…praying God would bring renewal to this small town that has been so hard hit by unemployment, gangs, and meth.

Finally, past the church where we serve…praying that God would use it as a tool to make all of the above come to pass, thanking Him for this opportunity to come home, grateful most of all for the love He’s shown us and commands us to share with others.

Blessed to know that while I walk these quiet streets, I walk with my Creator.

Shared at Heavenly Homemaker’s Gratituesday