August 28, 2015

Post Away!

In case you've read my blog before and this seems vaguely familiar, some of this is excerpted from an old post, but the majority of it is new. So with that confession and disclosure, read away! :D

I was raised in a different era. It was a time when, for the most part, certain things weren’t talked about and often things that should have been discussed were swept under the rug. But as with most things, when something swings to one extreme we can over-compensate by swinging too far to the opposite extreme.  Either way it remains out of balance. And today, conversely this generation is being raised in an uncensored culture where nothing much is left to the imagination. Today’s social media, reality entertainment and the information age are shaping this generation in such a way that discretion, boundaries and privacy are becoming a thing of the past.

So let’s talk a minute particularly about social media. Before I am branded a hypocrite (since I'm obviously using it to post this) let me say right now that I'm not of the opinion that social media is bad. I use it and as with anything, when handled with wisdom and self-control, it can be a very useful and enjoyable tool. But I'm finding that all too often, the easy access to being heard by an opinionated audience can prove to be too big a temptation for many. Any random thought or opinion that occurs to us can be instantly shared seconds after it arrives in our brain. We can get immediate feedback and be encouraged or discouraged, branded a heretic or a hero, persuaded and influenced, and heading down a particular path before we’ve fully processed, tested or filtered the original thought. Before social media, when we got annoyed or had a strong opposing opinion, we had time to think about it, to process it and to settle our emotions before we had the opportunity to speak about it. And often, with time to cool off, to get more information and to think it through, we might then conclude it wasn't something that needed to be shared at that time, or maybe at all. But we live in a different world now. On social media, our unfiltered, unrestrained sharing requires no discipline or forethought and tender hearts and uncensored thoughts are exposed to the temperamental masses for immediate approval or rejection. Not to mention, when the day comes (and trust me, it will) that we regret the opinion, the tirade or escapade we posted on social media, it will be forever on the internet to be viewed by our future employers, co-workers, congregations, friends, spouses and children. All I can say is that God was VERY merciful to delay the advent of social media until the days when I was a responsible adult. (Let all of us pause for a moment and picture our youthful shenanigans scrolling down a Facebook newsfeed and send up a heartfelt "thank you" to heaven... Whew!). Enough said. But suffice it to say, the ship of anonymity has long since sailed.

I’ve seen things posted on social media that really touched me, inspired me, made me laugh, or was exactly what I needed at that moment. But I have never, EVER responded positively, felt convicted or changed my opinion by an insulting, shaming, angry post or judgmental rant. Have you? Honestly? 

I admit that I too have succumbed to this culture of over-exposure and have shared things that I shouldn't have. I too have been guilty of sharing strong opinions in a way that didn't respect the individuals who believed differently. We all have done it. And to be fair, there IS a time to speak. There's a time to testify and to proclaim. But when we are angry or frustrated, or when our hearts are in that fragile in-between place, before our emotions have settled and our heart has found its way home, there first needs to be a journey into the secret place where God’s perspective and heart are sought. It's wisdom to process our thoughts through His word and Spirit and to get His perspective before we unveil them raw to the world. It's wisdom to get His heart for the individuals we disagree with before we blast them with our sweeping, impersonal judgments.
Some things are private and just not appropriate to be shared. Some things are not safe to be shared except with certain trustworthy people. Some things are just not ready to be shared until they've had the time to marinate and to be tested. Some things aren’t respectful to be shared with an audience of people of differing opinions and beliefs, who have those opinions for reasons we don’t know or may not understand.
So let us all grow up in this. (Preaching to the choir here). Before we pull the trigger and post a strong opinion or gripe or our personal stuff on social media, can we stop, take a deep breath and look within for a minute, and do these things first:

1. Ask ourselves WHY we want to post in the first place. 

What do we really hope to accomplish? What is our real motive? Let's be real honest with ourselves here. Is it possibly to get a pat on the back by those who agree with us? To get recognition and approval for our bold, articulate stand? Or is it possibly a passive/aggressive attempt at taking a jab at those we disagree with? I admit, I've been guilty on both counts. Or could it just be that we are ticked off and want to vent? (Been there, done that too) The truth is, it doesn't take much courage to be confrontational when we are in control of the argument, reclining with our laptop in front of us,  formulating and editing our thoughts with our finger on the delete button if we dislike a rebuttal, than in person where we might have to think on our feet. Honestly, some of the things I see posted, if said to the face, would probably invite a punch to the jaw. BUT, if the motives are clear , then let's post away.
2. And let us ask ourselves WHO we are posting to. 
Who actually WILL see our stuff? Remember there will be people of all ages (are there children in our friends' list?), people of different opinions, beliefs, political leanings and walks of life. Could what we post possibly be perceived as judgmental, be hurtful, be misunderstood or considered disrespectful by them? If the answer is no, then let's post away.
3. And finally, let us ask ourselves WHAT's the point.
Is it beneficial?  Is it helpful? Is it really that important? Will it unite instead of dividing?  Is it even necessary?  If the answer is yes. Then please let's post away.

To sum these all up: Is our motive love?  If the answer is YES then please, post away!
After all Love is really what it’s all about isn’t it?
Recently, I heard a big name pastor of a large church asked to make a statement about a controversial issue. His response really riled up some people in the church and there may be more to the story than I know, but to be honest, I didn't hate what he said. I don’t have the exact quote so I’m winging it here, but when pressured to make a statement on the issue he refused to be pigeon holed and he basically said that he did not want to make a broad, sweeping, impersonal, public statement but rather he preferred to have personal conversations about it with individuals. And I have to respect that. Making a statement is easy and it's impersonal. It's saying- I've planted my flag here and that's that. This is my stand. I'm not open to hearing yours. Now deal with it.
But investing in relationships, listening to hearts, even those we disagree with, asking and answering questions, respecting others perspectives and lovingly explaining ours, takes time and is costly. But people are kind of a big deal to God and way more valuable to Him than any 'stand' we may take. I'm not saying we should never take a stand. But if love isn't involved, we'd best shut our mouths, (or in this case, sit on our hands).
People vs Our Stance. I think I know which one matters the most to God.
Now...please post away  :D.

May 28, 2015

The Impact of One (updated repost)

Keith and I with Aunt Bobbie and Uncle Herb (Andy)
I wrote this about three years ago and I felt the need to repost it today. With a few updates and minor edits, it remains true to the original. So here it is once again. Enjoy! :)

Approximately thirty(ish) years ago, Keith and I, newly married and backslidden as can be, landed in Hawaii to begin his three year tour of duty with the Navy. For this immature girl who had hardly ever been out of the South, it was a dream come true. I had always wanted to travel and Hawaii was definitely on my bucket list.

So here we were, on the other side of the world from home. But as God would have it, He had a divine connection planned for us. As it turned out, Keith’s uncle, Andrew Herbert Johnson (Uncle Herb to us), who was a Navy chaplain, Commander and former fighter pilot and his wife, Aunt Bobbie, were also stationed there the exact same time as we were. And this ‘coincidence’ changed the course of our lives forever.
Keith and I had been raised in church and when we were young we had both made a ‘profession of faith’. But as adults, we weren’t living it. Actually most of the Christians we had known hadn’t seemed to be very happy and there wasn’t a whole lot of ‘Life’ in their Christianity to attract us. So we had sort of unconsciously resolved to have as much fun as we could while we were young and we figured that we’d settle down and act responsibly when we were older.

Then we met Aunt Bobbie and Uncle Herb. There was something different about them. At the time, I was 21 years old and Aunt Bobbie was 50-something yet I looked for every opportunity to be around her. I know I must have gotten on her nerves sometimes tagging along but if I did she never once showed it. She just loved me, with my short skirts and all. She just accepted me as I was. She spent time with me. She invited me along shopping with her. She welcomed us into her home every Sunday and any time in between. She cooked delicious meals for us. (Her rolls themselves were reason enough to keep coming back!) But she spent hours of time with me. Just letting me hang out with her. She and Uncle Herb were there for us. They made us feel like we mattered.

It wasn’t so much of what she said, yes she would answer my many questions, but it was mostly just what she lived. She and Uncle Herb just lived love. They reached out to some of the most unlovable people on the base and invited them into their home. I would sometimes feel jealous at not having them all to myself. But it just flowed out of them. And when Aunt Bobbie or Uncle Herb prayed, we felt something we’d never felt before. We couldn’t quite put our finger on it at the time, but for some reason we were drawn to them. We just felt Good when we were with them. A hunger began growing in my heart. I had seen LIFE, and I wanted it too. They weren’t just Christians in word, they had someONE living in them. I knew this because I felt Him every time I was with them. And I wanted what they had. For the first time in my life I realized, there was more. Christianity as I’d experienced it wasn’t all there was. Jesus was really real. He was current. He wasn’t boring. He was fun. But nobody TOLD me this, I just KNEW it, because I knew Aunt Bobbie and Uncle Herb.

Now Aunt Bobbie wasn’t perfect. But she was real. And what a sense of humor she had! She would sometimes get tickled in church and couldn’t stop giggling. This was my kind of lady! She had fun and joy just bubbled out of her. Almost more than anything, this intrigued me. I guess I had thought Christians were dour, boring old sourpusses. But Aunt Bobbie was a hoot! That, I could relate to!

She and Uncle Herb invested in me and Keith. They didn’t preach at us, they just loved us and lived an authentic life, full of LIFE in front of us. We didn’t change right away. A lot of what was sown into our lives at that time didn't  bear fruit for years. Actually it was so gradual that I don’t know if they were even aware of the impact they were making then. But something was definitely taking root in us. And it literally changed the course of our lives.

Now years later, we have raised four children and our family has grown to include a son-in-law, daughter-in-law and two grandsons. I am very proud of my family. I look at my husband and children and I am so grateful. Actually that doesn’t even come close to expressing how I feel. I am BEYOND grateful if there is such a thing. We’ve had people say how much they admire our family and they ask us what we’ve done. And I find that astounding. I really do. I’m not bragging, it’s just one of those things that happens repeatedly and I’m always left, like Mary, amazed and pondering these things in my heart. Because I honestly didn’t have a clue what I was doing 27 years ago when I became a mom. And 27 years later its still a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants operation. I guess all I had was an intense desire- stronger than anything I’d ever felt before holding my firstborn in my arms- to do this thing right. And a revelation that I didn’t have what it took to do it. But I did have a God who did. There are no formulas and I don’t understand it, but God has blessed our family.

But one thing I do know- the blessing on our family today can be traced back approximately 30 years ago to a little speck of an island in the vast Pacific Ocean. The fact that my children are serving God today and impacting the Kingdom can be traced back to the influence of one simple couple, who saw value in two disillusioned, immature twenty-somethings and who chose to sow time, love and life into us. I will be forever grateful to them for the harvest we now enjoy. As I look into the faces of my precious grandsons, knowing how their parents will raise them to know the Lord, all because THEY know the Lord, I just want to weep with gratitude and to somehow repay them for what they gave us. But I know one day, that their reward will be handed to them by the Lord Himself and it will be eternal.

So never under-estimate the value of investing into one person's life. You may not see the fruit immediately. But it could have eternal and generational impact. Our family is proof of that. My children can thank Aunt Bobbie and Uncle Herb (and God of course ;) that they know Jesus. One life impacting generations and the Kingdom of God.
Blessed be the name of the Lord!

March 8, 2015


 I haven’t blogged in a while. I’ve been busy moving, editing, house hunting, buying, unpacking but mostly dealing. Don’t worry- I'm not peddling narcotics now- it’s just my sister’s and my term for when we have an issue we are turning over and analyzing and writing about it in our notebook, talking to God about it and then discussing it in excruciating detail and then analyzing it some more. That’s dealing. Lots of that has been going on in my life of late. 

One of the things I’ve dealt with the last year is the issue of forgiveness. I used to be an expert on the topic of forgiveness. I’ve been known to dispense great advice on forgiveness. I could have given speeches and could have pontificated eloquently on the subject (if anyone would have asked me to). I could have written a best seller about it. I've touched on it from time to time in my blog. And all of my advice and points and chapters would have been technically correct. But life has a way of humbling you and showing you how little you really do know. So if you were expecting to read here of my great spiritual victory on the matter, I apologize but I have to keep it real. The truth is- unforgiveness has kicked my butt this year.

I guess it’s one of the reasons why I haven’t written much. I didn't feel that I could share anything of value here with this unresolved issue still hanging around my neck. Thankfully the Lord doesn't think like I do. As my son Max eloquently put it the other day, we need to approach God more like a Father and less like a boss. He's a good Daddy who doesn't shame or disqualify His children when they are broken, failing and dealing with issues.

And I've definitely been dealing with issues. Boy have I been dealing! I've gone over it in my mind a trillion times and then have ‘given’ it to the Lord. I've tried to make that more real by writing down the offense and then burning it up. In the past this worked. Not this time. For the record: This still is a good exercise and I highly recommend it if you’re stuck in unforgiveness. But I guess it all boils down to the fact that I've been reluctant to let it go. Even as my offenses went up in flames, my heart clung to them.

So am I now triumphant and that’s why I’m writing this to show you how to be triumphant too? No not really. For once I’m actually blogging still shy of the victory line. But I HAVE seen a glimmer of light at the end of this long dark tunnel I've been in. Just a glimmer mind you, but the tiniest spark in the darkest tunnel is most welcomed. 

Okay, we probably all know this passage of scripture I’m about to share and it’s nothing new but please read it anyway. Don’t do like I do when someone posts a long scripture (especially a familiar one) and I don't read it at all skim it. Do as I say, not as I do. Read this scripture. Yes that’s right… the whole thing.

"Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.” Matthew 18:21-35

So, what’s the glimmer of light I saw in this scripture I've read dozens of times?
It’s simply this: I need a fresh revelation that I've sinned much greater than I've been sinned against, and I've been forgiven of much more than I need to forgive. Of course we all know that in theory and I’m not trying to get into a “I’m a worm and not a man” type dialogue, but instead, what I’m really seeing here is the connection between the Unmerciful Servant’s inability to forgive the much smaller debt owed to him to his not recognizing the enormity of his own debt nor his appreciation of the magnificence of it being cancelled. Have I been a Christian so long that I've lost the wonder of the unfathomable, life-changing truth that God has completely cancelled my debt? That He not only cancelled it, He paid for it with His own life. He suffered and died in order to free me, so I could live; He endured what I deserved so I’d get what He deserved. Before I was repentant, before I received Him, before I was sorry, He endured the Cross. For me.

How could such a wondrous happening not be ever before me, always in my thoughts? How could someone else’s debt owed to me become more costly in my mind than mine was to Him? I don’t know how we forget. But we do. Well yea I do know. It happens when our eyes get off of Him and onto ourselves. Sounds pat but it’s no less true. At least it’s true for me.

So where does this leave me? Still dealing, yes. But dealing in a different direction. No longer looking at myself and asking ‘How can I possibly forgive,’ to looking to Him and instead asking ‘Help me to see the enormity of the debt I owed, and to appreciate that You paid for it all.”

I deserved death yet He gave me life. Mercy triumphs over judgment. His for me and mine for others. Every time.

"Forgive us our debts, as we forgive those who sin against us." Matthew 6:12

So back to dealing…