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!


That Was A Left, Right?


Nightmare lord,

 Lead Recruiter of Evil,

Huddled behind

The wooden cross

Above the pulpit.

Demon intern,

Lousy mapmaker;

Jumbled left and right.

He’d give him Hell,

If not paralyzed

By the Light.


TrifectaPicture11-1This is my response to Trifecta’s weekend prompt:

It’s now time for some Trifextra fun. Thirty years ago, Roald Dahl published the book Dirty Beasts, a collection of poems for children about weird and wonderful animals. The last poem, however, is called The Tummy Beast about a boy who thinks there’s someone living in his belly. Your Trifextra challenge is to write 33 words on a beast in an unusual place. No swamps or forests or caves, we really want you to take your beast out of its comfort zone.

I figured what could be more out of the comfort zone for a demon than the inside of a church?  Behind the cross no less 🙂  That demon intern had better watch out though, because if his boss gets out, I see pain and misery in his future!  (On a technical note:  the photo above is of a Catholic church.  I’m not Catholic, so I’m not certain if they have images of the cross inside.  The Baptist/non-denominational ones I’ve been to have…but I didn’t have a photo of one easily accessible.  Meaning:  I’m too lazy to retrieve my backup drive and search it!)

If you want to read other responses, or even better- submit your own, click the link above to view Trifecta’s site.

Thanks for stopping by.  Have a beautiful weekend!

Who Was That Masked Man, Anyway?

No, I haven’t been watching old TV episodes of The Lone Ranger.  However, I have been thinking about last Sunday’s message at church (entitled “When Masks Melt”) and this made me think of the masked man himself – the Lone Ranger.  His disguise was intentional and obvious, not like the rest of us.

With the William Tell overture playing in the background of my mind, I listened to the message, which suggested that we hide our true selves because of shame.  In the Bible, in Genesis – Chapters 2 and 3 we see the introduction of shame, when Adam and Eve hid behind fig leaves after disobeying God.  The pastor pointed out that we’re not much different; we hide shameful aspects of our lives so others can’t judge us – just as Adam and Eve feared God would judge them.

Some masks he mentioned are: obsession with sports, superficial things (like outward appearances), and humor.  I flinched a little, and I swear he looked right at me, though there were 200 other people in the room.  Well, uh…let me tell you about the priest, a minister and a rabbi who walked into a bar…

The pastor then asked us to identify ways we hide and pretend.  He suggested taking a “relational risk” by revealing ourselves to others in small groups or one-on-one.

The first part was easy.  I thought of how many times I’ve lied to others to protect myself.  I say I’m fine when I’m not or make a joke to deflect a curious question.  If I’m hurting, I don’t want to burden others with the knowledge of it.  In our society, we are brought up to respond this way, but it’s isolating.  How much lighter would we feel if we only asked how someone was doing when we really wanted to know, and felt safe enough to give an honest answer when asked?

The “relational risk” part caused my heart skip a beat or three.  This suggestion made me feel as exposed as wearing a swimsuit without a cover up that reached my knees.  Emotional nakedness is what recurring nightmares are made of.

As intended, it got me thinking about my relationships.  I reveal different things about myself online vs. in person.  My personal interactions shift depending on who I am talking to:  parents, boss, friends, co-workers or husband.  My true self is like the tootsie roll center of a tootsie pop – and no one person has gotten to my core.

The internet removes the judgment of face-to-face relationships because I have no idea who is reading, and they don’t know who I am either.  But what I share is also guarded for the exact same reasons.  The internet is like a suit of armor allowing me to conceal all but the tiniest pieces of my real self.  Interaction is kept at arm’s length because there is no laughter, sharing of tears or an encouraging embrace.  It is impossible to know if “fine” is really fine when reading words on a computer screen.

That being said, I don’t plan to abandon my online self.  Sorry.  I bet you got excited for a minute there.  The interaction and comments are just too much to resist.

Perhaps the next series in church will address addiction?

How is your ‘online self’ different from your ‘in-person self’?  Do you feel more comfortable with online or in-person interactions?  I’d love to know your thoughts on the topic.

Nancy at Spirit Lights the Way also had a recent post on (figuratively) wearing masks.  Click this line to give it a read.

What Is My Gift?

Last weekend, I went to a women’s retreat themed “Forgiven and Fabulous.”  Of course, I’m shy, so I brought along my best friend from college.  There is so much that I got out of it that I can’t possibly address everything in a single post, so right now, I’m just going to write about the last message from guest speaker, Jody Johnston.

Jody Johnston is the author of Legacy of a Woman’s Heart:  How Will You Be Remembered.  I bought the book but haven’t read it yet.  In her book, she profiles seven biblical women and includes stories of modern-day women with similar stories.  Of course, as I’m reading it, I will write about my reactions and how it impacts me.  If you want to read a description of the book, click here.

We read about Esther (Chapters 1 through 4 in the book of Esther, in the Old Testament of the Bible.)  It was no accident that Esther was chosen to be queen – she was part of God’s bigger plan.  Mordecai (the relative who raised her as his daughter) had forbidden her to reveal her background, so the king did not know she was a Jew.  When Mordecai found out about the order from Haman (one of the king’s advisors) to destroy the Jews, he asked Esther to talk to the king.

At first, Esther told Mordecai she couldn’t help because she could be put to death for approaching the king uninvited.  Mordecai responded that if she didn’t, Jews would die and even she wouldn’t be safe.  Esther did end up asking the king to spare her people – which he did.  The king even honored Mordecai for previously saving his life by uncovering an assassination plot, and ordered Haman to be hung.  God seems to have an appreciation for irony, because Haman was hung on gallows which he had constructed for Mordecai’s death.

The message from Esther’s story is that God has a plan for us.  We each have at least one gift and should use this gift to fulfill God’s plan – just as Esther fulfilled God’s plan by courageously approaching the king with the request to save her people even though it could have cost her life.  Ms. Johnston told us that we may be scared and not feel qualified when God calls on us, but He makes us qualified.

How do you know what “gift(s)” God has given you?  How do you know when you are called upon by God?

These two questions have been swirling in my mind ever since this lesson.  Is writing my gift?  I don’t know.  If it is, am I doing what God expects me to do?  I don’t know that, either.  I wonder if I’ve missed a sign and ended up somewhere south of His plan.  (I picture God with His head resting in His hand muttering, “no, no, no, NO!”)

Then again, I wonder if it’s possible that there isn’t anything to know yet.  Maybe I’m still on the bench waiting to be called into action.  Perhaps it’s not my time to discover my gift or my calling.

My computer hasn’t self-destructed, so until then, I will continue writing.  You know, just in case it does happen to be my gift.

Have you discovered your gift or your calling?  If so, how did you know?

His Lost Child Comes Home

My parents didn’t find us a church to go to when we moved to Arizona.  For the first time, I had the option to say “no” to church, and that’s just what I did.  At fifteen, I focused my energy on making eye contact with people instead of scouring the campus concrete for loose change.  I was determined to trade in my glasses for contacts and anxiously awaited the removal of my braces.  Basically, my attention turned to the outside and I ignored anything deeper.

God was with me enough to keep me out of trouble, but I didn’t do anything to grow a relationship with Him.  As the years passed, my closeness with God faded.  I took religion classes in college to fulfill degree requirements, which created more distance.  I still wanted to believe, but doubt and confusion crept in because I could see the validity in the other religions.  I wondered how every religion could be so sure that theirs worships the one true God.

During college I waitressed to pay bills.  Every Sunday, the “church crowd” flocked to the restaurant after services concluded.  The men wore their suits and ties; the women donned crisp dresses and high heels.  Many of them were courteous, fewer of them were generous, and a handful caused me to develop a dislike of religion and the hypocritical nature of people wrapped up in it.

In church, I remembered being taught about kindness and compassion for mankind.  I recall the message of spreading Christ’s word, but not passing judgment.  The comment that stung the most came from a church-going couple on a Sunday morning.  The man had been demanding and rude to me, and as I turned to walk away, his wife told him as much.  His response to her:  “It doesn’t matter.  She’s just a waitress.”  Lucky for him, this waitress was more interested in letting it go than plotting revenge.

I met my husband my last year of college.  We were in agreement about the hypocritical church folk.  He believed in “something bigger than himself,” but never attributed that “something” to God.  Five years after we got married, I started wondering, “What am I supposed to be doing in life?”  I felt lost, like something was missing.

After several years of treating God like a distant relative seen only at weddings and funerals, I now looked to Him for direction.  If He was a mortal person, he probably would have told me off and showed me the door.  Of course, He didn’t do that.  But He didn’t reveal His plan for me, either.   Then again, maybe he has shown me and I just haven’t noticed it.  I am a little slow that way.

I searched for a nondenominational church rather than the Baptist church I grew up with.  I only went to churches with a relaxed dress code because I associated ‘church clothes’ with hypocrisy.   (At one of the churches, the young pastor even wore flip flops!  Seeing the pastor’s toes went a little too far – I never could get used to that and ended up staring at his feet during the entire service).

My husband has come along with me on this journey, but I don’t know if he’s any closer to believing in God.  I pray that one day he will.  I’m no longer that stubborn (young) girl who had pulled away from God in favor of the illusion of personal control.  I humbly admit that I can’t do it alone; I got lost and am asking for directions.  My mind is finally open again – possibly for the first time since I was eight years old.  I’m eager to learn and ready to grow and prepared to follow the path He leads me down.