Beauty in the Weeds

IMG_3869

I’m taking a break right now and focusing on resting and getting deeply in touch with God.  We’re at a house on the ocean where nature is all around me and everything is peaceful.  I took a walk this morning to spend some time hearing from the Lord.  While on my walk I asked God to let me see the beauty of His creation.  I also asked Him to speak to me through creation.

As I walked down the street I began looking at the beauty of flowers people had in their yards.  I took pictures of things I considered beautiful.  Many of which I had never taken the time to notice before now.  Then, I walked past an empty, overgrown lot.  When I saw this overgrown lot that was so much different than the manicured lawns surrounding it I began to wonder what could be beautiful there.  Then, God showed me a weed I had never seen before.  The way the colors flowed from green to red was really amazing.  I looked at it and thought, “I really want some of these for my home.”

IMG_3867

Then, I saw another different weed that was equally amazing.  The leaves were beautiful and odd shaped and unique.  If I had not stopped to let God show me the beauty of His creation I would have completely missed this wonderful thing He made for my enjoyment.

What the Lord showed me in this abandoned lot was that there are weeds growing.  It is so easy for us to cast off the weeds as having no value but God created value even in the weeds.  He put beauty there.  Who decides what plants are weeds and which are garden plants anyway?  God didn’t create plants and say, “You will be a weed.”  People did that.  They selected from all God created and decided that some things have value and others do not.

We do the same thing with people.  We look at people who aren’t just like us and we consider them less valuable.  We look at people who are not serving God and we see them as just weeds who are polluting our environment.  We see people who are the throw aways of society and say, “Just cast them aside.  Put them on the burn pile.  They are worthless.”  But God doesn’t see anyone that way.  He created every individual unique and beautiful.  He has a plan and a purpose for every one of us.  There isn’t a single individual who has less value than any other one.  Every human is a child of God – many just haven’t discovered that they are.

IMG_3865

Out of the barren land God brings forth life.  Out of the ashes God brings forth beauty.  The things people often cast away as worthless are the things God values most.

He asked me … What would you do if a homosexual came to your church?

Had an interesting encounter with a man in an airport tonight. He sat down next to me and started talking to me.

He asked if I had a man in my life and I told him, “Yes, I have been with my husband for almost 25 years and I have children and grandchildren.” Then he asked what I did to pass the time when I was traveling for business – how did I entertain myself. I told him, “I study and prepare to teach or preach. I’m a pastor.”

So, then he said, “I’ve never met a woman pastor before. How do you feel about homosexuals?” I responded, “I love them.” 

When he asked what I would do if a homosexual came to my church I said, “Ask them to sit with me.” He was actually more judgmental towards homosexuals than I was and just couldn’t grasp “how they could be like they are.”

Then, we had a 30 minute conversation where I had to explain to him how people who were living in a homosexual lifestyle were NOT born with birth defects (what he thought) and they were just like all other people. They make choices just like the rest of us and deserve to be loved just like everyone else.

By the time I left him he was completely amazed and said he had a lot to think about because he had never met anyone who explained it like this before and all of the Christians he had ever asked these questions to had given him very judgmental answers but never reasons for what they believed. He said that I was the first person who actually gave him valid answers that gave him something to think about and left him with clear understanding.

He thought it was interesting that I said that the choice to have sex with someone of the same sex was sin just like making a choice to have sex with someone of the opposite sex when you are not married to them. Sin is sin and I don’t condone sin but don’t stop loving people regardless of their sin. I accept them just the same. They have to make choices and live with the result of those choices just like I do.

I think he was scratching his head when I walked away to board the plane …

Lusting the Untouchables

I watched a television show the other day about a woman who was playing the role of Secretary of State.  In this particular episode the children of the family were ribbing the father about some attention he was getting in the media and they announced to their mom, “Dad made the news today.”  What was all the hype?  He had been placed at the top of the list of “Best Arm Candy” men in the US.  They were honoring him as being the sexiest and most desirable man attached to a powerful and famous woman.  The husband and wife had a few laughs about this honor and the show moved on to other topics.

In the midst of this I heard the Lord speak to me gently in my heart and say, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife.”  I started to think about how many women find it perfectly acceptable to look at famous people and lust over their hot bodies.  Idris Elba and Anderson Cooper are names I’ve often heard passed around my own home by my single daughter as a few of the hottest men on TV.

Movies like Magic Mike drew crowds filled with women who would never go into a strip club but were thrilled at the opportunity to see a bunch of hot guys take it all off on the big screen.  I remember wondering how husbands felt hearing their wives lust over men they would obviously never have the opportunity to actually meet.

But what about the single women?  They aren’t married so they aren’t mentally cheating on anyone.  What’s the harm?  This television show made me see something that I had never considered before.  These men who hit the sexiest man alive, and hottest guy in long pants lists are often married.  The fact that they are movie stars, models, and rich and famous doesn’t make them imaginary beings.  They are real people with real lives and often times have real wives.

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife,” isn’t just a directive to men.  The implication here is also, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s husband.”  Women (and men) think it is safe to lust after TV stars and other famous people because they know that there is no chance of them actually ever having an affair with them.  But the destruction to your marriage happens in your heart every time you look at another person and think, “Wow, I’d love to get a piece of that.”  It opens your heart to the possibility that there is another human on earth that is more desirable than your spouse.

Every time a person sees or hears their spouse lusting over another person a little piece of their marriage dies because of unfaithfulness.  Hearing other people lust over your spouse is even worse!  I wouldn’t trade places with one of these famous wives with the “arm candy” men for all the money in the world.

Can you imagine constantly hearing women drool over how sexy your husband is?  When you call someone sexy you are saying they stir up a desire in you to have sex with them.  How does it feel to have women openly declaring this about your spouse?  How often do they wonder, “How long until someone more desirable than me comes along and he takes them up on their offer?”

It is time for us to open our eyes, ladies.  Lusting after these untouchables is harmful to our marriages.  It is harmful to their marriages.  It is harmful to us if we are single because our future spouse will never measure up to the imaginary Prince Charming.  It is harmful to their future marriages because when they finally do find a wife she has to compete with the world for her husband’s affections.

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife.”  God didn’t just mean the ones that live next door.  He didn’t institute this commandment because he was trying to take all the fun out of life.  He knows what will destroy us and gave us boundaries to keep us safe, happy, and healthy.

These are the thoughts I’ve had spinning in my head on this topic but I would love to hear your comments and perspectives.  What do you think?

9 Stages of Giving

 

Stages of Giving

I’ve been teaching a class on Biblical Finances and came across this list containing stages of giving.  The list was very impactful to me because it gave me a vision for what giving can be beyond what I have imagined up until now.  It really helped me to see where I am and changes I can make to move to the next level.

At first when I looked beyond level 4 I thought, “This is where only the rich people can live.” But God started correcting me and showing me that people are able to give extravagantly because they manage their money with purpose.  People become rich because they manage their money with purpose.

Then, I started to realize that managing my money with these goals in mind will actually bring me closer towards wealth because I can’t give away what I don’t have.  When you really want to give at these higher levels you manage your money with wisdom so you can take care of you future and have more to give!

How many of us don’t even have a plan for the future today?  How many of us don’t have a plan for giving?  As you progress through these stages it is clear that a plan for giving includes a plan for the future.  This list might overwhelm some people, but it left me encouraged and inspired so I thought I’d share.  I have adapted it slightly from the book Faith Based Family Finances.

Stages of Giving

1. Minimal response – Give when asked and only when asked. This giving is not consistent. When someone “passes a bag” or makes a specific request you give out of obligation but if the offering plate doesn’t pass in front of you giving does not happen.

2. Involvement and interest – Giving happens because you are involved in a project or interested in seeing something happen. You give to support a cause or mission. This type of giving is emotional in nature and not consistent.

3. Give what you are able – Giving happens on a more consistent basis but is limited to what you can afford. At the early part of this stage regular offerings occur. As you grow in maturity through this stage semi – consistent tithing occurs. As you reach the top end of this stage tithing is consistent and offerings occur regularly.

4. Give as much as possible – This type of giving requires a plan. Tithes, offerings, first fruits, and alms become part of your budget and you make trade offs and sacrifices in order to give. Giving moves into a priority position in your life.

5. Maximum allowable – You give the maximum allowed by the IRS.

6. Beyond the max – You no longer allow the IRS to determine how much you will give.

7. Percentage of wealth – You measure your wealth and determine that a certain percentage of your wealth will be consistently given each year.

8. Capping of wealth – You determine and set a limit on how much wealth is enough for you, your heirs, and your future and give the rest away.

9. Bequests – You take care of your heirs and give a portion of your wealth (or the remainder of your wealth) away after you die.

(adapted from Ron Blue and Jeremy L White’s book: Faith Based Family Finances)

I highly recommend the book Faith Based Family Finances!  Even though the title may not suggest so, it is interesting and inspiring!

Courage to Continue the Battle

Hanging out with a few of my Divine Mentors this afternoon. Shadrach, Meshack, and Abednego. 

They have really given me a lot of wisdom in a situation over the past couple of weeks and I’m very grateful that I have friends and mentors in the Bible that I can turn to for sound advice when I need help.

They have given me the courage to walk out my faith in the face of adversity. But, today as I spent time hanging out with my friends again it was King Nebuchadnezzar who encouraged me the most and solidified in my heart that every decision I’ve made made to be single minded in my faith has been the perfect decision.

King Nebuchadnezzar said to me today about my friends and mentors: “They trusted in God and defied the king’s (Nebuchadnezzar’s) command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God…” He further said of our God: “No other god can save this way!”

Introverts, Extroverts, Ambiverts – Life Impacts Us Differently

Three very different people types: extroverts, introverts and the very little known ambivert. I find that people have great misconceptions about what people with these three personality types can and cannot do. In general, I hear comments that extroverts do outgoing jobs that involve people and they are very successful, introverts don’t play well with others and they hide in closets, and ambiverts…what’s that?

Introversion, extroversion, and ambiversion are often misunderstood because people believe that the term refers to what people enjoy. However, the term actually refers to the source of energy input and depletion.

Extroverts gain great energy from interacting with people. Other humans are like fuel pumps. The more they interact with other people the stronger they feel. After spending an eight hour day talking to and meeting new people they are so energized that they feel like they could climb a mountain.

On the other hand, if they spend too much time alone they feel the energy draining from their body. After an eight hour day working in a room with no other humans and not a single conversation they feel so drained that they can barely make it to the dinner table before falling into bed exhausted.

Introverts, are the opposite of extroverts. Interacting with people drains the energy from them. This doesn’t mean that they don’t like people. Many introverts function in jobs where investing in people is the primary reason they exist. Pastors, counselors, coaches, teachers, doctors, nurses, etc. No profession or calling is off limits to introverts. However, being an introvert means that after a very fulfilling day of interacting with people they are completely exhausted and need time alone to recharge their personal batteries.

Introverts who work in high human interaction careers are more likely to close their office door and read a book during lunch than hang out with co-workers. Don’t take offense. This is not an indicator that they are not a team player. This is an indicator that they recognize what they need to gain strength to make it through the remainder of the day. Tell an introvert that they can spend a week in a little cabin in the woods all alone and they will tell you that upon their return they will be ready to conquer the universe!

Ambiverts are an entirely different animal. These are the ones who both get their energy from other people yet are completely drained by direct human contact. Being isolated for too long completely wears them out and they have to find humans to bring them back to life. Ambiverts might tell you that their favorite activity is being alone in a public place. People watching at a restaurant while dining alone is a comfortable welcoming experience that gives them life. Going to a party means hanging out on the sidelines contently watching as the extroverts work the room meeting everyone. Just being at the party with other people gives them energy. But, having to personally interact and have one on one conversations with too many individuals would quickly turn a potentially energizing evening into a night that could leave them completely exhausted.

Whether people are introverts, extroverts, or ambiverts they can all enjoy or dislike the same activities. All can enjoy being alone. All can enjoy being with other people. How they physically and mentally feel after these experiences is where the real impacts come into play.

The Flag of My Children Flies on This Hill

Where do I start?  Maybe here…Father’s Day.  A day of victory.

This weekend held yet more revelation and realization for me.  How interesting my perspective of this weekend compared to the perspective of so many.  Not bad in any way, just different.  I didn’t even realize it until today.

The perspective I hold could be viewed as a tragic by some but, I view it as our victory.  This was victory that took years to arrive at and was worth every moment of the battle.  Some hills might not look like victories — in fact until today – until just a couple of hours ago there were some hills that I didn’t realize the flag of my children flew upon.

I had viewed those hills as lost to the enemy but now I see that they were not lost hills, but hills of victory.  I just needed a different perspective to see my flag, our flag, waving in the wind.

It took today to see it.  A different day, a different perspective, and the words of my oldest daughter brought it all home for me, “How sad,” she said.  Those words brought my entire life into victorious perspective and I knew for certain that I had won the victory for my children.

In order for these words to make sense, I’ll tell you a bit of my story as pertains to the weekend and how the words, “How sad,” could possibly prove that our life is victorious.

Friday, I posted pictures of my husband and I on Facebook saying something to the effect of, “I have spent the last twenty-four Father’s Days with this amazing man whom God created just for me!  You are perfect and I love you.”  This didn’t seem odd to me at all.  It was only natural to me that I would appreciate the father that I most admire in the world – my husband.

Later, either Friday or Saturday my oldest daughter changed her profile picture to one of her Father and herself at her wedding a couple of months ago.  She just got her pictures from the wedding back on Friday so I didn’t think too much of it but I did wonder why she posted a picture of herself and her dad instead of her and her husband as her profile picture.  Then, I thought, “Oh, how sweet.  She loves her daddy.”  It never occurred to me that she was posting a picture of her and her daddy for Father’s Day.

Then, as Saturday and Sunday progressed I started seeing tons of people posting pictures of themselves with their fathers saying, “Happy Father’s Day,” especially wedding pictures of daughters and dads.

I thought this was interesting.  Posting a picture of me with my father would not even occur to me.  The concept itself was foreign. The only reference point that I even have in my life for a father is my husband.  So I did what came naturally to me, I posted a picture of me with the only father I would think to honor – him.

On Sunday, my youngest daughter posted a spread of funny pictures of her and her dad, “selfies” of her trying to get pictures with him but he kept running off or hiding from the camera.

At our Sunday family dinner our two daughters were talking about the pictures they posted on Facebook of them with their dad and I mentioned that I had realized today when seeing everyone posting pictures with their father’s on Facebook that I had two fathers, my birth father and a step father but I had never taken a single picture with either of them that I was aware of my entire life.  To this, my oldest daughter responded, “That’s so sad.”

Huh…sad?  I guess it is.  But what is incredible to me about this entire story is that my children and I have such a huge gap in the concept of “father”.  I consider this a great victory.  I have no concept or reference point for having a relationship with a father whatsoever.  So much so that I don’t remember taking a single picture together.  There was no father to walk me down the isle and I have no concept of what it means to have the love of a father – period.

But, my children – every single one of them – have grown up in a home with their father loving them.  Every one of them with tons of pictures to prove it!  None of them can conceive what it would be like to not have their father in their lives.  None of them can comprehend what it would be like to not feel loved by their daddy. This is why their flag flies on the hill.  This is why I declare victory!

My second oldest daughter, my first daughter by birth was actually raised most of her life in the home of her father and not by my husband and me.  For years, I looked at this as a hill lost but today, God showed me how my flag – HER flag is flying in victory.  She got what I never had.  She got to have what every one of my other children had.  She wasn’t deprived of seeing her father every single day of her life.  For this I am grateful.  For this I declare victory!

I love every one of my children more than life itself and there is nothing I would not give up for them.  There is nothing I would not give for them.  But I realized today that I have given each of them something that is quite possibly more precious to me than the very air I breathe.  Something I never had – to know the love of their father.