Forgive and Get

So there was this dude from back in the day. He’d gotten himself into some pretty serious debt (the equivalent of millions of dollars) by borrowing from the king of his land, and on budget-balancing day, the king decided he wanted everything settled up. As you’d guess, the guy didn’t have the funds to pay it back. So, as was the custom of the day, the king ordered that everything this man had be sold so the man could make good on his promise of repaying the debt. This included the man and his whole family being sold into servitude to settle the account.

The man in debt, clearly distraught over this, fell to his knees and begged the king:

“Please master, Please, be patient with me, and I will pay it all.”

The king, even though he had every right to demand repayment, was filled with compassion toward this man, and made a decision. He decided to let the man go free, not just to have more time to pay back the debt, but to be completely free. He released him and canceled his debt completely. The man’s debt had been erased. He owed nothing. He was free.

So, of course, this man lived a long and happy life, forever grateful for this freedom, and extended the same grace to others that had been extended to him, right?

Um, not so much.

That dude went right on out, came across a guy who owed him some money (the equivalent of a few thousand bucks) and grabbed him by the throat, demanding he pay back the money this instant. This man also couldn’t pay back the debt, so the dude had him thrown in debtor’s prison.

Some folks heard about this, and knowing he’d JUST been forgiven all his debts, went and told the king about it. The king was irritated to say the least. He summoned the forgiven man and asked him WHAT IS UP WITH THAT??!! He said “You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me. Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?”

You might recognize this as a parable that Jesus told, as recorded in Matthew 18. (Retold here in the Krysten paraphrase.) 

This parable was told in response to Peter asking Jesus “How many times should I forgive someone who has sinned against me? Up to seven times?”

Oh, Peter, you’re so adorable. You thought seven times was a lot. I’m with you. 

“No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!”

Jesus said the Kingdom of God plays out like this parable. God is the king. We are the ones in debt to Him because of our state of sin. He has fully and completely forgiven us, no matter how much of a mess our credit history is. So when we go out into our world, He expects us to transfer that mercy to others. He expects us to remember our great debt that we couldn’t repay, and to offer the same forgiveness to others.

But there’s one thing this parable doesn’t tell us. It’s the part we figure out for ourselves when we put in to practice what Jesus said to do. It’s the hidden gem that we get from obedience to this practice of forgiving. When we free someone from their debt, we become free as well. In fact, the freeing is more for us than for them!  Unshackling someone from us by forgiving their betrayal, their insensitivity, their part in our abuse, their coldness, their poor parenting, their lack of love and understanding… Whatever the case may be. Releasing them in your heart and mind releases us as well. We get to live more freely and move forward with what God has in store for us.

Forgiving is no easy task. It’s not a one-time deal. It’s a choice we make over and over to extend freedom as it has been extended to us. It’s a process of renewing our minds to allow God’s truth about us and our situation to permeate every place in our lives, so we can really live. It doesn’t mean forgetting. It doesn’t mean acting like nothing every happened (in fact, the very act of forgiving someone means that there has to be an offense that needs forgiven in the first place.) It doesn’t even mean reconciliation with the person in every case. But it does mean freedom.

This week has been a tough one. I’ve been working through this process of forgiveness toward someone that, quite frankly, doesn’t really “deserve” my forgiveness. This person did something terrible to me, on purpose. They treated me in the worst way a person possibly could. And they’ve never once said they were sorry. They haven’t even acknowledged their wrongdoing. They’re just going about their everyday life as if nothing ever happened. And chances are, I will never hear an apology from this person as long as I live, even though I certainly am owed one, and much more.

My life has been changed by the way this person has done me wrong. It’s been devastating. Life-altering. It’s cost me hours and hours of distress and thousands of dollars in counseling. It’s created anxieties in me that I’ve never had before. It’s made me act like a person I’m not, on more than a few occasions.

And I am tired of living that way. Having a bitter undercurrent just below the surface of your life is no way to live. And honestly, nothing this person could ever do or say would really take away the hurt that has been imposed on me. It’s forever affected my world. 

So rather than waiting forever to get the apology I’m owed that will never come, (and wouldn’t really help much if it did) I’m working on being obedient to this command of my King. For my own sake. For freedom. 

I begin by recalling a debt that I owed, that I couldn’t repay. I remember how I have been forgiven of that massive debt. How I could never make it right even if I tried. And I decide to forgive my debtor as I have been forgiven. 

This doesn’t come easily. But with God’s help, I start by transforming the way I think of this person. In a very practical and tangible way, I write down everything I think about the person (everything—no holding back. God knows anyway.) And then I search the scriptures and  write down the truth about this person, as God sees them. As he sees all of us. 
Then, I say the things out loud. This is the hardest part.  My own thoughts first…filled with hurt, bitterness, pain:

______ is an awful person. _____ doesn’t deserve forgiveness for this. How could someone do that to me?  To anyone!?

Then the truth of God’s word, canceling out my unforgiving thoughts: 

______ is made in God’s image just like I am. _____ has fallen short of the glory of God just like we all have. _____ has sinned against me, but while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us all. (Genesis 1:27, Romans 3:23, Romans 5:6,8) 

I don’t have to like this right now. I don’t even have to believe 100% that these things are true about this person. Yet. But I will. Because God’s words ARE truth, and truth will win every time. I will continue reviewing these thoughts vs. God’s truth (and the many other pairs such as this that I’ve written down about this person I’m forgiving) and trust that I’ll be transformed by the renewing of my mind. 

I’ll make the decision to release them from this debt they owe me, because I want more freedom. And forgiveness is the way to go about getting it. 



moments, present and accounted for.

Two years ago today I was waking up in India. Probably at all the wrong time of day, as I was still getting used to that other-side-of-the-world time change. Even while rubbing my eyes, I could still see that moment. That face. That gratitude that seemed to make no sense to me. A frail little man, brown skin all wrinkled, bowing his head to me in thanks, clutching that little fuzzy blanket against his face even though it had teddy bears printed all over it.

ImageA small fleece blanket, purchased in bulk. Various colors, prints, patterns, handed to beautiful human beings who were made in the image of God. Men, women, and children, most whose bodies were in various stages of leprosy. And it was my turn, and it was a flurry of activity. I tried to soak it in, see every face, look in every pair of eyes, whether they were blind or not. But time and nerves and culture don’t always allow everyone’s eyes to meet, and I was feeling as if I’d never really grasp the depth of this moment. Like I was a bit outside of it, not totally present.

Awake the next day, I tried to get my mind back into that moment. I was trying to recall all the faces and colors, the exact moment of that exchange.That moment the man pressed that blanket to his face in pure, complete gratitude. The whole experience floods my mind, even today. Apparently I was there after all.

But I wondered what that moment meant to that man, exactly. Was his demeanor a typical expression of gratitude, or was he, like me, trying desperately to cut through languages and culture and awkward interactions to show just how life-changing that moment was as well? Was he awake somewhere, trying to stay in that moment like I was?

I don’t know and I guess I never will. What I thought I knew for sure was that there’s no way that moment could ever be topped. That was the pinnacle of all New Year’s Eves, from now until eternity. And no other New Year’s Eve moment–or perhaps any moment–would ever be that good.

But now, I’m not so sure I was right about that.

I’m realizing that it’s not the best or biggest moment that really counts. It’s ALL of the moments. We have to make all of our moments count, because every one of them contains heartbeats and breaths and smiles and memories that we will never be able to replicate exactly. Never ever. So we have to make them count, not by trying to balloon all of them into enormous moments, but by being present in every one of them big or small. By noticing things that help us savor them.

Fast forwarding to last night, New Year’s Eve again. This time, I was in my own small-town kitchen. I made pepper jack pasta from scratch and broccoli from the freezer. I laughed with my husband, son, and daughter-in-law. We watched several episodes of Breaking Bad. We said “Happy New Year!” at 12:00 and headed off to bed about an hour later. Hardly momentous or earth-shattering. Hardly that memorable moment in India two years ago, right?

But last night, in my un-exciting New Year’s Eve, I felt really present in all the moments of the evening. I noticed a lot. My husband is such a polite eater. He folds his napkin meticulously after each use. The sauce was incredibly smooth and spicy, just the way we all like it. My daughter-in-law swings her hair to the side a lot like I did when mine was as long as hers. Her nose wrinkles up a little when she laughs at something, which I love. My son gives a heavy sigh when something is bothering him and he wants to talk about it but wants you to ask him what’s wrong. And he’s becoming more polite every day, with lots of thank-yous and pleases, and carefully handing the butter around the table, a lot like his amazing father. I noticed, noticed, noticed, until my senses were full and so was that tank that holds all my joy, wherever that lives.

No fireworks, no watching the ball drop. No noisemakers or parties. No incredible travels or culture shock or big things. Nothing that would make anyone say that an incredible experience had occurred. But I was there for every single moment, and they counted.

And this year, I’ll be noticing and counting.

even flunkies are loved

Let me just start by saying that I’m a devotional flunkie. Totally and completely.

So when you hear me say “I read the coolest thing in my devotional this morning…” please know that you should in no way picture me up at 4am, sitting quietly in the dining room, hands folded, with my thick bible open alongside a page of notes and my leather-bound, well-worn daily devotional in front of me, from which I’ve faithfully read and studied every day of my life.

Um….Not so much.

The picture probably looks a little more like this: I’m standing in the bathroom brushing my teeth with one hand, at the same time trying to keep my bed-head hair out of the Sonic toothbrush, while scrolling the verse of the day on my phone.

Yeah, I’m pretty lame when it comes to consistently reading from one devotional or reading plan. I have tried it many times in the past. There have been times when I’ve done pretty well. It’s a great thing. But since the fact is that I am almost certainly a person walking around with undiagnosed ADD, it’s really hard to stick with the same thing over and over day in and day out.

Now before you get all crazy on me and write letters to the church saying that the elder’s wife (the mouthy one, no less) just confessed on the Internet that she doesn’t read the bible, just chill for a sec. I didn’t say anything about not reading God’s word. That I can stick with, no problem. It’s always in front of my eyes, it’s just that the format is constantly changing.

No matter how it gets into my eyes, I’d love to say that every single time I read anything from God’s word, it hits me like a rock and transforms something else about me and brings me joy and healing and hope. Many times it does. Yet other times it sits there, hanging on me like a lightweight t-shirt, just waiting to be layered upon to shore up my skin from the cold that I don’t know is yet to come.

Very recently it’s been like that. The words just lightly resting until something more is added to them…something more that makes things click together like puzzle pieces. Lately some of those puzzle pieces have been snapping together left and right, and it’s been so cool.

But I’ve also been fighting this personality of mine. SO hard. Moreso than usual.  My ADD-ish tendency to become distracted by the least little bit of something off to the side has been bothering me, nagging at me to straighten up. I’ve felt worthless because I haven’t been able to do a lot of things well (were we ever even meant to do a lot of things well?) and because I am not sure which thing to give most of my attention to, because they are all, after all, good things. But good can easily become the enemy of the best, so I’ve been struggling for clarity that just didn’t seem to come.

Then today, I read the coolest thing in my devotional. (Insert funky picture of me reading and brushing my teeth at the same time here)

“Keep your focus on me. I have gifted you with amazing freedom, including the ability to choose the focal point of your mind. Only the crown of my creation has such remarkable capability; this is a sign of being made in My image.”

Wow. The amazing freedom of being able to choose my focal point. That’s one version of freedom I had not yet contemplated!

Further on, I read:

“Let the goal of this day be to bring every thought captive to Me. Whenever your mind wanders, lasso those thoughts and bring them into My Presence.. ….Confused ideas are untangled while you rest in the simplicity of My peace. I will guard you and keep you in constant peace when you focus your mind on Me.”

For the millionth time, my Creator spoke right to me with what I need to keep going. I have been asking the right question, what is it I need to focus on?  But I wasn’t looking for the answer that came. I have a list of things that I think are important enough to warrant my time and energy, and I’d been giving God a multiple-choice quiz of sorts, asking Him to fill in the bubble next to the thing I should be most focused on. But God doesn’t fill in our multiple-choice bubbles. He writes His own questions and answers.

So the answer He wrote for me is the answer I suspect I’ll get for most of my questions: Press into Me… Focus on Me. It’s only when you’re focused on Me that I can take care of all the peripherals for you.

I’ve spent more time in prayer over the past few weeks than I have in a while. I’m slowly getting those layers added…those pieces that complete the puzzle. The fears I’ve long held to that kept me from really opening up my hands and saying “just take everything, God” are slowly dissipating. Apparently being a devotional flunkie doesn’t make me a total flunk-out after all. He always finds a way to speak to me. When I focus my mind and thoughts on the One who created me, many of the questions I have get answered in amazing ways. I’ve got butterflies in my stomach just waiting to see what’s coming up next.

“Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you.” -Proverbs 4:25

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learning in the last 365

What can I say about the last 365 days??  A LOT. That’s the problem. So much I’ve been wanting to say about this year and not nearly enough time to sit down and get it all out. As I’ve looked back at what the past 365 days have been about, I’ve had a hard time putting any sort of rhyme, reason, or theme to it. There has been a lot of hurt and a lot of healing. But mostly a lot of learning.

I’ve learned that a person who has given himself over to substances that manipulate the mind actually becomes just a shell of his former self. He stunts his own growth, mentally, physically, spiritually. I’ve also learned that God will meet that person right in the middle of the filthiest place he takes himself, look him in the face and ask: “are you done yet?” I’ve seen God’s redemptive work before, lots of times. In my life and in the lives of many others. But this year, I got to see his resurrection power at work. It’s been so beautiful.

I’ve learned that your family isn’t just the people you share blood with. Sometimes they’re the ones that treat you least like family. But that’s okay. Because God made us not for family, but for community, and that can happen anywhere, whether or not you share blood or last names.

I’ve learned that just a small step of obedience can set us on a path of big impact. Such as been my experience this year. I don’t pretend to believe that my little contributions will solve the world’s problems, or even one problem. But I know that we’re all responsible for fitting our pieces of the puzzle into the overall picture. And sometimes we just stand there because we can’t see what the big picture is supposed to be. Instead of trying to fit some of the pieces together, we think it’s best to just wait until someone else–someone more qualified or wise or “together,” perhaps–gets all the edges matched up, then we’ll be able to help a little with the rest. But sometimes we just need to do something to get started, then we can see how our contribution helps the whole thing come together.

I’ve learned that some traditions just die with people.

I’ve learned that no matter how little I think I have, I am so ridiculously, terribly rich.

I’ve learned that “Whatever your work is, do it gladly. Do it as you would do it unto the Lord and not for people” is harder to live out than I thought.

I’ve learned that while I can be pretty generous with my stuff, I haven’t quite learned not to be stingy with my time. (Jesus, work on that one, please??)

I’ve learned that I feel most “right” when I am creating something.

I’ve learned that there truly is such a thing as God’s Economy, where people just use what they have for the good of others, and just receive just what they are in need of. And it just works.

I’ve learned that garbage in really does = garbage out. That goes for what I see, hear, think, eat, and surround myself with. The good news is that the flip side of that is also true. Yay.

I’ve learned that having too many things on my plate usually means none of them are done well, and that I need to remember my first and foremost responsibilities, then let everything else fit in around those things (or not).

And maybe most of all, as you’d expect, I’ve learned that I still have a whole, big lot to learn.

It’s gettin’ real…

Just wrapped up our big Pilgrim Simulation project at school this week. My little kiddos are now walking around the world with words like Separatist, ‘tween deck, chamber pot, and Wampanoag in their vocabulary. They are well versed in the details of how the first feast became the first Thanksgiving. At one point in the project, students had to write and illustrate important facts to remember about The Mayflower (bonus points to the person who can tell me the name of their first ship. Without googling!) it was not an easy voyage. One of the women actually gave birth to her little baby boy while aboard the ship, and she named him Oceanus. Unfortunately, he only lived a few short months afterward. He passed away before the end of their first long winter, along with about half of their colony. One of my kiddos chose that as an important fact to illustrate, and this was her picture! Adorable. A little creepy but adorable. I loved my job again this week.


Monkey Town Read-Along: Week 1

The back cover of the book states, in bold print at the top:


For some things, this statement doesn’t sit very well with me. For example, if I’m going in for surgery, it’s not a motto that I’d like to see hanging on the wall next to my surgeon’s med school diploma. I’d kind of like him to know the answers when it comes to the why and where and when and how of cutting me open. Because surgery is something that must be precise. There’s not a lot of room for doubting and questioning, you know what I’m sayin’? I like my surgeons to have lots and lots of definitive answers…not questions.

But faith is not surgery. No matter how hard we try to make it so, it’s really not exact and precise. In fact it can get pretty messy and even uncomfortable at times. That’s why it’s faith.  Scripture, the scripture that I believe to be wholly inspired by God, even tells us that “faith is being sure of what we hope for, and certain of what we cannot see.” (Heb 11:1) I think that in almost every way, our entire lives are spent pressing toward the place where we become content with that exact definition of faith.

Last week I started a new summer read-along that I’m doing with some folks over at my new friend Marla’s blog. The book is called Evolving in Monkey Town by Rachel Held Evans. It’s about one woman’s journey through the questions we all (likely) ask of our faith. She just had the cojones to ask them out loud, on paper, through thousands of copies out in front of the world. If she can be so bold, can’t we??

Part of the reason it’s taken me a week to write this post is because I felt the need to establish a bit of context for my comments about this book. Much like Rachel, I felt like I needed to tell my own personal faith story in order for anyone to know where I was coming from in reference to this book or my own questions about faith. So I took the time to go back and piece together story of how my faith was born. If you’re interested, check it out here, but be warned, it is looooooong.

Okay so let’s get on with it, shall we?

This week’s assignment was only to read and comment on the preface and introduction to the book. Lemme tell ya…that was plenty for me. Here are some things that stood out to me:

  1. Deep breath…..I forgive you, Rachel, for referring to apes (via Koko the Gorilla and Dian Fossey references) as monkeys. It’s a common problem and a personal pet peeve of mine. I am going to assume you did so on purpose so as to keep up the clever reference to the Scopes Monkey Trial throughout the book. Enough about that.  Deep breath….
  2. The introduction is actually entitled “Why I Am An Evolutionist.” I thought this was a very good use of this sometimes-dirty word. I don’t really get what the big deal is. To evolve means to change into something new… evolution is actually defined by the good folks at Merriam-Webster as “a process of change in a certain direction.” By that definition, all of us are evolving, either into something more and better than we are now or something less that we hoped we’d be. The direction is what matters. As Christians, we are called to constantly becoming more Christ-like every day. That is an evolution if I’ve ever heard of it, and certainly in one specific direction. So if our actual being is changing to become more like our Savior, then wouldn’t our understanding of that process (our faith) constantly be changing along with it? It would have to. I know that because of God in my life, I understand more about Him, myself, and others around me that I ever have. Therefore my faith itself has changed. For example, I love my husband. He is one of the most important parts of my life. But when I learned, through studying the Word and prayer, that he could not be THE most important thing in my life, the way I interacted with him changed. I no longer looked to him to give me my identity or my worth. That’s a job he couldn’t do. Those things only come from God, so I have to go to Him with those needs. When I do, my foundation is firm and I can live confidently and love my husband better because I am not expecting him to do things that he cannot do. My faith in God is actually bigger because that understanding has changed…it has evolved into a faith that allows me to put God before my husband, which enables me to honor both. So I am not scared to say that indeed our faith evolves. In fact, if it does not…are we living fully and growing at all?
  3. My faith began with lots of questions. I have a feeling it will always include and even end with questions upon questions. That doesn’t scare me either. I feel like if I had everything all settled and felt like God was figured out and I could explain every miraculous event and I had a quick, neat little response for everything God-related… then how big could God really be? Isn’t the fact that we humans cannot figure him out and explain his reasoning and all that just more proof that He is in fact, God? God is enigmatic, and if He weren’t, then what would about him would be worth worshipping? I have experienced many cool things in my life, but none of them were worth reshaping my whole world around. God is. And the sheer fact that he is so awe-inducing and beyond my tiny understanding is what makes Him worth giving my whole life to. I know there will always be things about Him and His decisions that I do not understand. But if I allow them to produce anxiety and fear and doubt in me, then really I think He’s keeping something from me that I need and I question His motives. If I do that, then do I really trust Him? Not so much. If I believe that God is good and loves me and knows what is best for me, then I’ll understand that He gives me knowledge about what I need to know (and what I can handle) when I need to know it. I trust that whatever I don’t know yet is just because I have what I need to know right now. He gets to call the shots when it comes to tell me more details. I am okay with that because I know that He gives me only good things.
  4. What about monkeys (APES!!) and evolution and old earth vs. new earth and evolution and all that stuff?? I do not believe science and faith to be mutually exclusive at all. The bible says that God created everything in 6 days. It also says that a day in the Lord is like a thousand years. So does that mean He created everything in 6000 years? Hmmmm. I think this: God created everything. All I have to do is look at a newborn baby or see the Fibonacci sequence in nature to know that there is a rhyme and reason to all things. Things like the way food chains work, the way that our body heals itself, and the vast diversity of species on the earth and deep in the sea… those incredible things don’t point to a happy accident that resulted in a long line of events leading up to the birth of human beings to me. No way. There is purpose in everything, everywhere. Those things point to a Creator who knew what He had in mind when it was created. It doesn’t matter how long it took for Him to create it. The point is…whether is was 6 days or 6000 years or 60 billion years, humans couldn’t have made it happen. A couple of molecules and some heat couldn’t have done it. It’s beyond our understanding…it’s an unfathomable task, regardless of the time it took. I am not dismissing the discussion about it, but again, I love the wonder it creates in me….it’s not going to shake my faith in any way shape or form. God chose men to breathe his Word into. Therefore, when they penned the writings that He knew would eventually be the compilation of what He wanted to say to us in that way, He had to allow those scribes to put it in language that we could wrap our minds around. So whether he had allowed the scribe who penned Genesis to say “6 days” or “6 billion years” we would still question it. It’s amazing that God created everything and He still loves and cares for us. He is outside of our complete understanding, outside of time and space. The fact that He’s let us in on even some of His big story is amazing.
  5. On page 18 of the introduction, Rachel uses this sentence: So fearful of losing their grip on faith, they squeeze the life out of it. She is referring to fundamentalists, or people who “think God is pretty much figured out already” and He’s “done telling us anything new.” (pg. 17) I’ve known a few people like this in my day, haven’t you? Those churchy folk who refuse to allow their children to participate in science class for fear of what they might learn. Those people who don’t believe in healing because that only happened “back in bible times.” Those church leaders who insist their congregants dress a certain way and cover any tattoos and cut their hair because by golly, that’s what Jesus would have looked like if he’d had the modern conveniences of a suit and a shave. Um, yeah…those folks. Don’t they just seem to drain the life out of everything? If that’s what people want to believe, then that’s fine…but don’t go slapping a Jesus fish on it. Because that’s not what Jesus was like. He questioned things. He rebuked the folks who looked like they had it all together. He shot straight to the heart when people came around wanting to look cool on the outside. He didn’t have time for all that. He was busy trying to bring life to people. And I would rather do that too. I’d rather focus on bringing life to people around me rather than holding tight to the way someone should dress or act or think or whatever. I’m perfectly okay with asking questions. As long as they inspire wonder and awe for God, rather than causing us to simply grasp for knowledge just for the sake of feeling like we know something more than the next dude.

Okay then, there’s a lot more that I could say about this, but I need to get started on my next reading assignment anyway. If you’ve made it through this long-arse post and you have another sec, why not leave a comment telling me a faith-question (or maybe an anti-faith question?) that makes you a little uncomfortable. It may end up being one of the same question asked in this book later on. I can’t wait to find out.

31-ish days: Final Post in the Series

Okay, so I was planning to write a big, fat post on how I completely failed at my first attempt to write through a 31-day challenge, since here it is Day 31 and I have not shared one bit of writing in the past week here on this blog. Ugh.

Then, I was looking at the calendar and decided that instead of admitting defeat, I would just sit here at the laptop and pound out 7 posts in a row, which would be the equivalent of the past 7 days, then I’d be all caught up. After all, I have been meaning to sit down and catch up on all the writing I’ve wanted to do. I mean, it’s not like I didn’t have the ideas. I’ve literally been carrying around one of my notebooks and jotting down ideas as they come to me. Here’s a picture even! (Some names have been blurred out to protect the somewhat innocent!)

: )  But then I shook off both of those ridiculous ideas and thought to myself, hey, I made it for three weeks! Imperfect, not particularly impressive, but pretty cool nonetheless. I’ve been reading several other ladies’ blogs who took part in this 31 day adventure, and came across so many inspiring thoughts and ideas that I could hardly take it all in. But that’s not the reason that things didn’t finish well here at Pray, Then Learn. I just got crazy busy…CRAZY busy this week. Even though I had a long list of to-do items, including writing, the truth is that I had to do the “must-do’s” first, like the stuff I do to make a living and the stuff that I do that other people count on. Once that was all done, I planned to plop down and write a bit for all of you each day. But the problem was that that “must-do” stuff never was done. So once I ran out of time, I just had to choose sleep as the next thing to cross off (should sleep even be on a to-do list!? I’m sure that’s crazy.)

There are simply only so many hours in a day (much to my dismay sometimes!) but we all do what we can. I definitely will still continue to write. In fact I have some crazy little projects in the works that are turning out to be larger than I even thought they would be. But I don’t mind going slowly…working my way up to something big by taking those baby steps… the same way everything good usually gets done!

In case you’re wondering, here are some tidbits from this past week of my writing absence:

  • I’ve finished some heart wrenching and comprehensive books about human trafficking, and I learned so much from some very brave people right here in my hometown who fight against this craziness here and all over the world. I’m heartbroken and thankful that my eyes have been opened to this monster. Praying to learn how I fit into the fight.
  • Todd and I spent what seemed like way too large of a chunk of time completing our application and requirements for our visas to enter the country of India. Everything was in order and now it’s all shipped off, so we should be straight with the India government here shortly. Amazingly, we’ll be 8000+ miles from home in less than two months. Talk about surreal.
  • The natural gas heat kicked on in our house, which feels great but means my sinuses are doing their annual dry-out-completely thing, which then of course means I’m buying cases of saline spray and tea bags for the winter. Not that exciting of course, but if I’m cranky, it’s 99% likely that it has something to do with that issue.
  • A tiny Indian man is currently driving my car around central Ohio. I am driving the grocery getter. I’m not really into fancy cars or anything, but I’m pretty sure that a mini-van is not “me.” It feels so big and clumsy compared to my cozy little Honda .
  • I have 3 new books to start reading. I’m having trouble deciding which one to start first. It will likely be the new one by John & Stasi Eldredge, since I’m all about the rockin’ marriage. I’ll be sure to share a review when I’m finished.
  • Baked my vegan chocolate cupcakes and made spicy also-vegan chili for our cook-off/auction this past weekend. We raised thousands of dollars to drill wells in India so people could have clean water in the name of Jesus. I love it. LOVE!
  • Fell in love with my husband for the 901,783,478,981,423, 124,674,999th time. *dreamy sigh* [bonus: he is gorgeous!!]
  • Scheduled our next Financial Peace University class (this will be our 6th year facilitating the class!!) for the beginning of 2012, and we’ll be hosting a class preview on November 20th. And no, we don’t get paid for doing that. : )
  • Completed all my grades and entered report cards for the first 9 weeks of school. Hard to believe that the school year is already 25% over! It goes so FAST!!
  • Experienced some incredible and very convicting messages at church the past few weeks. I’m so thankful for the gift of teaching that God has given our pastor.
  • Have a list of scriptures that I’ll be praying through, meditating on, and trying to unpack in preparation for my trip to India. I can’t wait to meet my girl Donna and spend some time enjoying the company there. I like being somewhere that makes me the minority sometimes.

I’m sure there’s more that I’m just not thinking of, and I’m sure I’ll even write more about these things later, but there’s a little snapshot for ya. One more thing…probably the weirdest thing of all…. I actually had the thought this week that it’s possible that someone, somewhere may be feeling a bit disappointed by me not writing this past week. If that’s you, thanks a lot. It’s cool to know that someone was following this almost-31-days close enough to miss it when it was gone. Very fun thought.

So, not feeling defeated nor particularly enthralled, I’m headed to bed not sure exactly when my next opportunity to write may be, but knowing that the next thing I’m going to write about is already brewing. : )

Moments, Day 18: The Teacher Being Taught

By vocation, and by calling, I am a teacher. I am blessed enough to get to spend my days alongside 23 beautiful little souls, impressing upon them everything I can about life and the love of learning. And some days I get so wrapped up in teaching that I forget that I desperately need to be taught, too.

This week I’ve been getting up [extra] early to spend time with God. Real time, not just the showertime prayer I had been giving Him as of late. Real undivided attention…time just for Him without anything else I’m multitasking with. Monday I got up and thanked Him for my day, my wonderful life, His very own presence in me (CA-RAZY, I know!!) I sang some songs to Him, thanked Him some more, asked him for loads of stuff on behalf of my husband, and asked Him to speak to me in some little way.

I sat there. Nothing. I sat longer and waited. Nuthin. I listened. Not a peep. I was starting to get frustrated, because after all I had gotten up at 4:30 instead of  my usual 5:00, and I was there just to spend time with Him and have a great life-altering conversation. But so far, it had been completely one-sided. So, after waiting for what seemed like an eternity (probably something like 4.3 minutes) I finally asked Him to show me something in His word that He had in mind for me.

Now, I know there are a lot of good bibles out there. Probably a lot that aren’t wrinkly and half torn and missing 2/3 of the concordance and all the cool maps. There are more “grown-up bibles” that don’t have all the notes in them like mine does. I keep thinking that I oughtta get me one of those grown-up bibles someday. But there’s something about that ratty bible, the first one I ever owned, because its like it knows me. This bible, and it’s Author, speak to me without fail when that’s what I ask for. Hmm…seems like I’ve heard that somewhere…if you lack wisdom you can ask for it! : )

So my wrinkly bible opens up to Psalm 86. I read through the beginning and then saw what I knew was just for me:

“Teach me your way, O LORD,   and I will walk in your truth;
give me an undivided heart,  that I may fear your name.”

I thought of one of my favorite songs…What Do I Know of Holy? by Addison Road. One of the lines sings…

“…I think I’ve made you too small….I’ve never feared You at all, no….”

Which reminded me of some other lovely words from scripture: The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

 It was clear to me that God was wanting to teach me something, which was kind of weird because I’d been asking Him to show me how to be closer to Him, to have a better relationship with Him. And here He goes wanting to school me on something. Not what I ordered, but I was still okay with it (like I have a choice!) because my heart is so divided at times. I needed this so badly.

Then later that day I checked the verse of the day, which is a regular habit for me. And wouldn’t you know…?

“The LORD confides in those who fear him;  he makes his covenant known to them. -Psalm 25:14”

Huh. So God does want to reveal more of Himself to me in our relationship, our covenant. He wants to make the whole of our covenant with each other known to me. Apparently I need to make a couple of adjustments before that can happen, like having that healthy fear of Him again (or for the first time, maybe?) It’s something I’ve noticed in myself lately, but this really shows me that He wants me to go back to basics, to learn rather than be a teacher right now. I’m so thankful for His gentle nudge, His quiet confirmation in these things.
Althought I know it’s not what I expected, I am so looking forward to being taught, just being taught by the master teacher Himself. It might take a long time. It will likely take a lot longer than I’d wanted. But it will be worth it. Please pray that I can be a good pupil.

This post is part of a series called 31 Days of Making Moments. If you’re new to the series, feel free to click here and you can view all posts in the “31 Days” category and learn what the whole making moments thing is about. Thanks for stopping by!

Can you hear me now?

So, I finally took some time tonight to catch up on an amazing little blog that I can’t even recall how I discovered, written by a local author by the name of Marla Taviano, who seems pretty darn amazing herself. I’ve been reading one of her books lately, entitled Is That All He Thinks About?: How to Enjoy Great Sex With Your Husband (way more on that later!) and I must say, I am enjoying the way that through her writing, this lady just brings it —the truth, that is— in a way that is  gentle but also a little bit in-yo’-face when it needs to be. Now I don’t know her personally, but she just seems very….real.  That’s my kinda gal.

Anyway, she’s decided to invite folks to do a read-along of the book of James, starting this week. Now, I mentioned to her once through a comment on her blog that I was a little freaked out by how timely some of her posts have been for me recently. You know that weird feeling when you’ve been thinking of something for a while and all of a sudden the whole universe  seems to confirm your thoughts and point you in the direction you need to go? Well that’s happened a few times recently through this little lady’s blog, among other things, and seeing this invitation to read through the book of James, it’s happening again.

I’ve been pondering what to read next in just about every way.  I’ve been shuffling back and forth through the pages of my bible lately, not really giving myself to one particular book or topic. I have several professional books that I’ve recently purchased and I’m trying to figure out which one will give me the most bang for my buck, since my personal reading time just got slashed by about a million percent when school began a couple of weeks ago. (FYI: A workaholism post will be following soon…maybe.) My book club just finished up an awesome novel and we’re looking for a new book to read…should we do another novel or try another book that is more life-application-ish?? The decisions…

Well, at least one of those decisions has been made for me. Whether or not this will be a book club pick or not, I know I’ve got to do this read-along. Because all these little road signs and nudges have been pointing to something to do with this verse, what I like to call the second scariest verse in the bible:

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.

Guess where it hails from? The book of James. Mmmmm-hmmmmm. Anyone joining me?? If so, check out the details and introduce yourself over at Marla’s blog here.  

I know I’m not good at it, God, but You’ve got me listening, and that’s a start, right?  I am listening.

Abolition U

A few weeks ago I wrote this post about human trafficking. It’s hard to believe it is even real, but it is. And it’s closer than any of us want to think. What can any of us do to fight such a huge, ugly monster?

One of the ways is to become informed. There are many great organizations and people who are already devoting their entire lives or even just a few hours a month to fighting this sick modern-day slavery. Sign up for this class, Abolition U, with me. It’s offered by a locally-founded organization called Doma International, and these good people are kicking some serious butt against the enemy of human trafficking. They are life-changers. 

 I’m just getting my feet wet with all this, I’m certainly no expert. But every time I see or hear anything about people who’ve been forced into working for no pay, or selling their body for the gain of another, I get angry. No, I get furious. I get furious on their behalf and I want to do something to make it stop. But I don’t know how. But I do know that there is hope for them, and there’s a good chance that God’s people are part of that hope. So I plan to pray about how I might be involved, and I plan to learn whatever I can about it. 

Check it out. Pray about it. Sign up if you’d like to be involved. Below is the email about the class that was sent to me by one of the hard-working folks at Doma. It includes an overview of the course. Hope to see you there!

Hello, Wonderful Potential Abolitionists!

Get ready to change your life–Abolition U will teach you exactly what’s going on with human trafficking around the world and here in Columbus, but even more importantly, it will help you to learn how you can fight slavery with your own resources and talents. For many people who fight slavery, it takes a long time to figure out exactly who’s missions we believe in and how we can help–Abolition U can slim that down to a powerful three day journey.

Here’s a mini-syllabus. All classes will meet at the Vineyard Church, 6000 Cooper Rd. in Westerville, Saturdays, 9-6. People of any and all beliefs, backgrounds and ages are welcome.

October 8
Field trip! We start with a trek to the Underground Railroad Freedom Center. On the bus we will introduce ourselves, pass out the real syllabi, and learn how we all would like to fight human trafficking and have fought it so far. At the Freedom Center, we will eat a great lunch (bring a little cash), and tour the facility, really understanding the role slavery has played in history and how its evil head has reared back up. It’s a truly enlightening experience.

On the way back, we’ll discuss the trip and hand out books to be read for discussion at the November 5 class.

October 29 and November 5
We will meet with representatives from the strongest arms of abolition in central Ohio–top folk from Gracehaven House, CATCH Court, the FBI/CPD, doma and CORRC, who unites us all. We will learn about HT from every angle possible, and how we can best fight it.

It costs $15 to register, please do so by pasting this into an address line:

Your entrance fee to the Freedom Center and books are paid for.

Julie Clark, founder of doma International, and I, an abolitionist for the past three years, teach this class. Please contact me at this email or via phone, 614.684.8060, with any questions at all.

Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your interest in this issue. Slavery has been knocked out before, and we all need to work together to do it again.