“Religion”

I love clouds and sunlight photos. That's how God's love makes my heart feel.
I love clouds and sunlight photos. That’s how God’s love makes my heart feel.

My Trifecta writing challenge post on Friday, about a demon led to a church sanctuary by the poor mapmaking skills of an intern demon, was meant to be a funny tale about a beast outside the “comfort zone.”

I think some read more into it than what I intended, which is fine.  Great, in fact.  I want others to relate to my words.  Even more so, I want my words to promote thinking.  What I don’t want is for my words to be made into something they aren’t and then attributed as my thoughts.  So, more fully than I could explain in a comment reply, I’m going to clarify (I hope) my views on religion.

I believe that Jesus died for our sins.  I go to church, but I’m reserved and stay on the outer fringes of the mass.  I enjoy going there to learn with others who are supposed to be of like beliefs.  I grew up in Baptist churches, but in adulthood, I’ve chosen non-denominational churches.  I don’t want my belief in God to be firmly attached to a sect of Christianity; I want it attached to the Bible.

I don’t like the clique feeling of some congregations.  I don’t like when worthiness is based on whether or not you wear a fancy church dress.  I don’t like the looking down perfectly powdered noses to cast judgment on strangers.  I don’t like the insulation from community, whether from non-believers or those in need of a helping hand.  Not every church is like this, but I’ve seen enough to know they are out there.

God’s intent of believers congregating:  “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.  Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another- and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”—Hebrews 10:24-25

I heard a quote on the radio that expressed what I felt more eloquently than I could.  I found the following on Lysa TerKeurst’s blog:

God doesn’t want us to have a religion. A religion is where we follow rules hoping to do life right, and we serve God out of duty because we think we have to.

God wants us to have a relationship. A relationship where we follow Him. And we serve God not out of duty but out of delight because of the realization of who we are in Him.

Biblical reference:  The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men.”—Isaiah 29:13

When we live with the purpose of strengthening our relationship with God, love just happens.  We have compassion for those ignored by society.  We follow Jesus’ lead and embrace those who have been scarred by sin. (That’s all of us, by the way.  No matter what Christians want others to believe, none of us are free from sin.)

I stumble.  A lot.  Perfection isn’t even on my horizon.  But I find comfort in knowing that God doesn’t expect it.  He expects me to follow not by sight, but by faith.

That, I’m learning to do, every day.

I want to be amazed by the ordinary.
I want to be amazed by the ordinary.

Thank you for stopping by and taking time to read this.  If you have any thoughts/opinions, please share by leaving a comment.  Have a beautiful Sunday!

Finding Color In Gray

photo taken in my yard
photo taken in my yard before a monsoon storm

Most times, it’s easy for me to see the bright side and find beauty in almost anything.  The last couple weeks, it’s required more effort.  My tendency has been to see clouds as darkened, my glass half-empty- basically the negative side of any situation.  Old insecurities have seeped back into my consciousness.

But I’m not giving up.  I know whatever this is will pass.  I’m not sure why this is happening, but I don’t suppose my understanding matters.  I will not be swallowed by the shadows, or stifled by the storm clouds…at least, not without a fight.

Give me the strength,

Provide me the will

To appreciate the small joys,

To gravitate toward the uplifting.

At times, I will rest in the shadows,

But please, don’t let me dwell too long.

I forget to let go and my burdens get heavy-

Remind me again, I don’t walk alone.

Why, my soul, are you downcast?  Why so disturbed within me?  Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.  Psalms 42:11

I’ll end this post on a colorful note.  I’m striving for the mood I want, not the mood I have.  Have a beautiful Sunday!

Photo taken on a back road near Fossil Creek, AZ
Photo taken of sunset on a back road near Fossil Creek, AZ

Hills and Valleys

My questions confirmed that this indeed is a drawing of a hill with a gravestone on top!
My questions confirmed that this indeed is a drawing of a hill with a gravestone on top!

It is official:  there was a hill and I’m over it.  Funny…I don’t even remember climbing it. Oh well, I’ve heard that memory lapses with age.  And I’m forty now, so I’d better get used to it.

Now what was I writing about?

Oh, yes.

Each year, when I tack another year onto my age, I tend to glance over my shoulder to see where I’ve been and if I’m heading where I think I should be.  My heart is a fairly accurate compass, but my brain wants to see for itself.

I feel content in our new environment (four months ago, we moved from the desert of Phoenix to the cooler climate of pines, further north in Arizona.) From this horizon, I realize that the last two years had been an emotional valley.  Acknowledging the peace I feel now, I guess my son was right:  I have summited a hill.

But there is no gravestone at the top.

Despite what I imagined forty to be half a lifetime ago, I feel energetic and ready to discover what the next year (or twenty) has in store.  Age may be staking claim on aspects of my appearance, but it doesn’t fool me into thinking the best is behind me.

I may be getting rough in my old age, but I still have blooms in me :)
I may be getting rough in my old age, but I still have blooms in me :)

But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”  (1 Samuel 16:7)

Physical exercise has some value, but spiritual exercise is much more important, for it promises a reward in both this life and the next. (1 Timothy 4:8)

Serenity Amongst Worries

Embracing serenity
Embracing serenity

Have you ever been so focused on one thing that other things to do are neglected – they slip by unnoticed and undone?  If I get engrossed in a project, meals get skipped, bathroom breaks are forgotten- until it’s almost too late- and muscles become knotted because I forget to let myself stretch.  (Please tell me this isn’t just me!)

Since we moved from big city to small town in March, I’ve mentioned to my husband several times that I need to look for a church here.  I also say that I need to get a drain stopper for my younger son’s sink…I need to fix the window screens with holes in them…I need to work on my novel more.  Our attention has been directed toward getting the yard cleaned up and we’ve made progress…but it means other things are not getting done.  (I’m not Wonder Woman after all…but oh, how fun that would be!)

You might be wondering, “If you want to find a church so badly, how come you don’t get it done?”  Simple answer:  my shyness and social anxiety have been stronger than my desire to find a church.  Since my husband works on Sundays, I wouldn’t have him to lean on.  Yet, I’m not disciplined enough yet to study the Bible regularly on my own, so I really do need the weekly nudge to keep me motivated.  This has been my struggle for the last few months.

As we drove home from watching fireworks on the Fourth of July, I saw a church and commented again, “I really need to look into finding a church here.  I miss it.”

On Saturday, my husband called and told me about an ad on the radio about a generator for sale.  He looked at it and liked it, so I met him at the person’s house, checkbook in hand.  We got to talking to the people and it turns out they are part of the worship band at a nearby Bible church.  (Oh, we’re small town now, so everything is nearby :razz:)

Long story short, I’m going to swallow my nerves (and eat a light breakfast, just in case) and go to the church service today.  Everyone in town has been friendly, so I can only attribute my anxiety to leftover issues from my childhood.  I read through several Bible verses last night to try to calm my increasing worries.  (What if I get lost on the way…I don’t know where to take the kids…what if I run late and can’t find a seat…what if I find a seat, but it’s all the way in front…oh the list went on.)  I liked these two best:

Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.  (Proverbs 12:25)

I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. (Psalm 34:4)

Today, I pray that God will replace my inner turmoil with serenity and ease my social apprehension so it is not a hindrance in seeking a new church home.  I ask that He banish my superficial worries so that my ears and heart will be open.

Do you have fears/worries that churn inside you?  How do you find peace?

New Day, Fresh Start

Sunrise:  Sheds light on the promise of change
Sunrise:  sheds light on the promise of change

The thing I like best about mornings is that each day is a chance to try out a new frame of mind, or do things a bit differently, based on wisdom gained from mistakes.

My last blog post ended up more “ranty” than I like- it was definitely influenced by my state of mind (which was greatly affected by the kiddos’ screaming fight waking me up early!)  By Friday night, I had debated about deleting that post, but I read a comment from someone that something I had written in another comment response helped.

That post will remain.  It’s part of my imperfect (mostly happy, but flawed) life. Perhaps others can find comfort in that.  I avoid rants because I like to keep things positive- that hasn’t changed.

I’m writing this on Saturday night, while I can still move.  You’ll understand that statement shortly.

Saturday morning, I decided it was time to get some much needed yard work done.  I also thought it would be a good time for the kids to practice teamwork.  For a couple hours, I worked solo, but then I got the boys helping.

It wasn’t all harmony though.  They began to fight (as they do 95% of the time.)  I told them that if they couldn’t work with me to get it done, the two of them would have to finish up on their own.  They stopped bickering- and fast!

To keep them distracted, I started singing:  “I love raking leaves, so put another bag in the pile now, baby” to the tune of Joan Jett’s I Love Rock and Roll.  They actually laughed (not sure if they laughed at the singing or the words, but does it matter? :))  Then they started making up their own raking leaves songs to the music they listen to.

My older son and I were able to put the hard feelings from the day before behind us, and in the process, we raked up fourteen bags of leaves.  My muscles already ache (yes, all of them) and my back and knees are stiff.

This is the reason I feel my age x 2
This is the reason I feel my age x 2

Now you know why I may not be able to move tomorrow.  But I will still find joy in the opportunity to grow in a new day, adding to the wisdom gained from my days before.

Like these pine cones, I'm still growing
Like these pine cones, I’m still growing

For though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again, but the wicked stumble when calamity strikes. (Proverbs 24:16)