“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!

Getting Done and Getting By

My mom often comments that she doesn’t know how I get it all done.  She then rattles off several things that I push around have on my plate…work, my husband, the kids, Cub Scouts, housework, etc.  I smile nervously and deflect my gaze.  It’s like looking her in the eyes would signal my acceptance of her observation.  I know she means well, but I get uncomfortable under the weight of that statement.

Yes, I do have a full life.  Everyone does.  Most days, I manage reasonably well to fake it through the day.  But everything is far from getting done.  I’m behind reading with my younger son, so I add a half hour of reading time.  Then, I don’t have time to look at my older son’s geography project.  I do that the next day, and by doing so, I didn’t get the grocery lists done.  I double up on reading and homework review the next day, almost smug that I’ve beat the system…then I remember I have a Cub Scout meeting in two days and I still have to plan the activities.

I’m not getting everything done; I’m merely getting by.

Long after everyone else is in bed, I sit at the computer.  I steal borrow (yeah, borrow sounds much nicer; more legal) some time for me.  I manage to get blog posts done and a few short stories and poems here and there, but my novel sits untouched; I decide it needs more time than I can give it right now.  I think my sleep time won’t notice, but the next day, when I fight my midday slump, I realize that my theft has not gone unpunished.

I always thought I was an honest person, but the same borrowing goes on when it comes to my spiritual growth.  I feel better when I spend some time reading scriptures, opening my heart for God’s truths to speak to me.  I also feel better when I avoid the cookies and cupcakes someone brought in to share with the office, but for some reason, I make choices that leave me feeling empty and wanting more (and carrying a few extra pounds.)

This weekend, I’m at the last camping trip of the year with my older son.  I pray that God will help me to let go and enjoy this time without thinking about all the stuff that isn’t getting done.  I hope God will work in my heart during this off-line time.  I feel like I’m not accomplishing what I’m supposed to…but I don’t know what God’s plan is for me.  (Hello, cryptic dream…lightning bolt…anything???)  I hope writing is an answer, but I want to have an open heart in case His plan for me is something else.

I can’t do it all.  Something’s gotta give and I hope God will guide my way.

Which path? I kind of hope it’s the first one…it’s in Hawaii 🙂

Simply The Best

Not long ago, I overheard someone on TV talking about their singing, a talent pursued with the hope of becoming the best in the world.

My first thought:  “Wow, that’s ambitious.”

My second thought:  “Where does this leave the billions of people who cannot be the best?”

Since I fall into the “not the best” category, my mind mulled this over for several days.  I wondered why we would strive for such a goal.  Fame?  Money?  Ego boosting?  This would explain the popularity of Guinness World Records.  Maybe that’s why one would shoot for the record of most spoons balanced on the face, or most shirts worn at one time?

God doesn’t care if the world knows my name, or if I earn enough money to buy a private island.  And my lagging self-confidence only matters if it hinders my ability to share God’s word.

I’ve written about my struggles recognizing my gift(s) and God’s calling, so I won’t go there today.  God’s ministry is like a Broadway musical.  Not everyone can have a leading role, just like not everyone can be the best.  We may not get center stage, but God’s calling gives us the opportunity to bask in a different kind of spotlight.

Oddly enough, when I think about wanting better talents, Tinker Bell (the movie) comes to mind.  Here’s part of the summary from Amazon:

“Tinker Bell thinks her fairy talent as a tinker isn’t as special or important as the other fairies’ talents. But when Tink tries to change who she is, she creates nothing but disaster! With encouragement from her friends, Tink learns the key to solving her problems lies in her unique tinker abilities and discovers that when she’s true to herself, magical things can happen.”

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit.  There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.  There are different kinds of working, but the Same God works all of them in all men.”  (I Corinthians 12:4-6)

I pray that we may all be content with being the best “us” we can be, even if we aren’t the best in the world.  Have a beautiful Sunday!

Penny For Your Thoughts; Quarter For A Beer

Our first night in New Orleans, my friend and I went to a nearby café for a bite to eat.  We were nervous about walking around an unfamiliar city after dark, but we were hungry enough to venture out anyway.

On the way back to our hotel, maybe half a block away, a man asked me for money.  I thought about how my wallet was wedged into the tiny purse I use for travelling and worried that pulling it out could invite a robbery.  So I lied and said I didn’t have any.

“You look like that and tell me you don’t have any money?”  His angry voice shouted after me as we continued walking.

I wasn’t sure what about my look made him think I had money.  Perhaps it was just the fact that all my sale-priced store-brand clothing was clean?  Still, I cringed because the man saw my lie.

When we got to our hotel room, I pulled my wallet out of my purse and dumped the change onto the desk.  I decided I wouldn’t let myself be in that position again.  At home, our area is free from poverty and homelessness.  If people are struggling, it is hidden behind their manicured yards and cars financed with 84-month loans.

Before we left the hotel each day, I shoved all my coins in my right jeans pocket.  When I made purchases throughout the day, I refilled my pocket with change and a few dollar bills.

We met a man with a dog named Charlie (oddly enough, the man didn’t give his own name.)  We visited with the panhandler and his dog for several minutes before we continued on our way.

We paused and listened to a guitar player, a jazz ensemble, and enjoyed the rhymes of “Bongo Man” as he played the drums and made up hilarious rhymes about passersby.  Here’s one he did for us:

"Bongo Man" earning tips one laugh at a time

And this lovely lady

You’re so kind,

You helped save my behind.

Now I can take my wife to dine,

And get some peace of mind.

I’m the Bongo Man

Some people say I’m crazy

But I work hard, and I ain’t lazy;

Some people say I’m a louse

But I would never rob your house-

Or your car…

(You people park too far)

He was flipping a different kind of bird...but isn't the Macaw lovely??

We paused to look at human statues – people painted silver and gold that held their poses without so much as a muscle spasm.  We watched street artists with their easels set up on sidewalks paint canvases while people gathered around.  I encountered a homeless man behind me in line at the convenience store wishing to purchase a can of beer, but worried he might be a bit short.

So many people were looking for money (with varying degrees of creativity).  Some may shake their heads and call me a fool for giving them money.  Maybe I am.  They could be exaggerating their need for money…they could have nice houses and a closet full of new clothes…they could be off to buy booze – or worse, drugs.  On the other hand, they could have a family to support…they could be saving coins for their next meal…they might need money for medical care.

I don’t need to know.

As for the man who needed help buying his beer?  Sure, I would personally opt to buy a food item rather than alcohol.  But then again, maybe an afternoon beer buzz is just what this man needed in that moment to make a less-than-perfect life shine for a little while.

Maybe beer was this man’s chocolate.  Shouldn’t we all be able to have a taste once in a while?

~~~God’s “2 Cents” on the subject~~~

Luke 6:20-21 “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours in the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.”

Deuteronomy 15:7 “If there is a poor man among your brothers in any of the towns of the land that the LORD your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward your poor brother.”

Matthew 5:42 “Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.”

What We Leave Behind

We went to our first estate auction yesterday.  I tried not to think about the fact we were bidding on the artifacts from a dead person’s life.  It surprised me that even the woman’s cleaning supplies and personal care items were sold, but it’s better than letting them go to waste.

Just by looking at her belongings, we could see she liked to travel; she loved beautiful crystal and china, ornate wooden pieces of furniture, and fine art.  The many shelves of books revealed her love of reading.  The exquisite baby grand piano and boxes of CDs hinted that music meant something to her.

We acknowledged that she had a beautiful home, but her possessions told us nothing about her as a person.  Did she spend her life helping others or serving herself?  Was she lonely or surrounded by friends and family?  Was her life a delight to God or was God even a part of her life?

Of course, we’ll never know.

The things we own aren’t a good measurement of our worth.  The legacy we leave behind isn’t a fancy sports car in the garage or a house full of “stuff” – it is in the lives of others that we meet each day.  Every intersection of our life and someone else’s is an opportunity to be a beacon of kindness.

It feels safer to seek out those who are like us – in spirituality, lifestyle and appearance.  This is like eating peanut butter and jelly for dinner every night – it gets boring after a while.

Here’s to reaching out to souls who may be different from me.  These are people who can teach me about myself and deepen my ties to humanity.  This is my world and I want to make it beautiful.  (Even if it means not running from the BK guy if I see him on the street :))

“Love your neighbor as yourself.  There is no commandment greater than these.”  Mark 12:31