The World

Today’s topic wasn’t just random. I believe God planned it down to the littlest detail. Why? Because, in less than twenty-four hours, I will be on a plane to Honduras with a missions team from my church. This trip has been a long time coming. From the time I first expressed interest back in February, getting to go on this trip has been a God thing, pure and simple. There’s no way I would have been able to go on my own. Not from a one-income homeschooling family. But, God worked it out so I know it’s a part of His purpose for my life.

This will be my first time going abroad to do missions work, but I did spend a summer in Maryland when I was a college student. I also took a few one-week mission trips, but it’s the summer trip that has been in my thoughts in recent days. My partner and I worked in the inner-city doing whatever was needed, but mainly, we conducted Backyard Bible Clubs. In my mind’s eye, I see the faces of those children like it was yesterday. They were so excited we had come to where they lived. It was hard work. A lot of times, I was out of my comfort zone, but my youthful self dreamed of changing the world for Jesus. Many times, after that summer, I dreamed of becoming a career missionary.

But, real life intervened, and it’s now thirty-two years later. I wonder, where did that youthful enthusiasm and energy go? What happened to reaching the world for Christ? Oh, I did my best to change my own small corner of the world. I taught school. I married and had my own children. I became their teacher when they were young. I poured into my family. I wonder how much I really changed though. Advocates in the homeschooling community would say I changed a lot for my family, but what did I really do? I’m still working all that out.

We were practicing our faith when our sons were young. Then, we spent time out of the church in their middle years. I’ve written about this before. I became a cynic about the church and the community it’s supposed to offer because of all the bad I had seen. I longed for it still though because God had planted the desire in my heart. Cynicism and longing combined in my heart to make a potent soup.

As I’ve written though, my life has changed over the past six years. Love has come to the forefront, and I have a better understanding of what my faith means. I talk to God often, and He comforts me when the world lets me down. I even have a community that puts up with my weirdness, :-), and that is something, to be sure. I thank God for it every day.

Over the last few years, I’ve been thinking about and planning for what comes next after my children were done with high school. I’ve chronicled many of my thoughts and feelings in this blog. As you know, this is the year. My younger son will start college in the fall. God has been leading me down this writing path. I know that for sure. But, how and in what capacity, I don’t know. I also don’t know what I will do with the time I used to use for homeschooling. And except for my writing, I’m not sure of the path God is leading me on to serve Him. Thinking of that day in August when both of my children will be in college is a blur right now. I don’t know how my days will go or what will be in them.

I think it’s why God led me to this trip. A week away doing work for Him with no distractions, it’s what I need. God will meet me there. The uncertainty and blurriness will disappear, and my life will be changed!

Praying God’s blessings on you all today!

PS: I will complete this series on 100 Days to Brave when I return. See you on the flip side!

My Country

When we began homeschooling twelve years ago, many people in the homeschooling community considered themselves to be conservative Christians. To be fair, they still consider themselves conservative Christians, but that’s not my point. I wanted to fit in back then so that’s how I identified myself. Even though we weren’t in a church, we still considered ourselves as Christians so I didn’t think anything of it. I complained about the same things they did. I got exasperated with the things going on in my country. And I generally thought of people on the other “side” as not worthy of my time. I’m ashamed to admit that now, but I was sitting in judgment of people like people had sat in judgment of me many years earlier when we had left the church. It wasn’t a pleasant feeling. Jesus didn’t want me to do that and He still doesn’t want me to do that.

What started changing my mindset in another direction? Life happened to us. Bad things started happening to us. Things that were impossible to conceal behind a facade. It was impossible to sit in judgment of someone I thought might be cheating the welfare system when my own husband couldn’t find a job. It was impossible to sit in judgment of someone coming to my country illegally when there was a possibility we would become homeless. I couldn’t do it. God was changing my heart to beat in tune with His. Now, I do need to add that some of the people I had come to know helped us in any way they could, but, in the general community, I was still seeing some of the same judgmental attitudes.

Anyway, my heart has continued to change over the past six years as my country has become even more sharply divided. Everything I see in the media depicts one side as being totally right and the other as being villainous. It goes both ways too. There is not a side that gets a pass as to how they treat people on the other side. That’s why I’ve pretty much stopped participating in political discussions. God doesn’t want me treating other people like they’re horrible just because their opinion is different from mine.

In general, we are unable to listen to other people with different opinions. We sharpen our knives to make sure we make our point not caring who we hurt. But, we’re still afraid, afraid of being judged for our faith, for our race, for our gender, for anything that makes us different. Christians participate too which is the saddest thing of all because I don’t think this is what God wants from us.

So, what does God want from us? He has the solution though we often refuse to see it.  First, Romans 13:1 offers us guidance. “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” We’re subject to our governments no matter how much we might dislike them.

Second, He offers us opportunities to meet people who are different from us. We need to take those opportunities because God uses them to change hearts as He has done mine. The more familiar we are with differences, the less scary they are, and that builds in us a willingness to help. God has challenged my comfort zone in the last six years and is continuing to challenge it in the midst of figuring out my own differences from other people.

Finally, God wants us to be willing to change our mindset. I think that might be the hardest thing of all, but we all need to steep this in prayer as we are seeking to become the people God wants us to be. Just because one person cheats the welfare system doesn’t mean all people do. Just because one person expresses racist thoughts doesn’t mean all people are racist. In the midst of our differences, there is one way we are the same. We are all sinners in need of God’s grace.

As I look back over what I wrote, the author’s words from today’s devotion come to mind clearly, and I know it’s what God wants from me as I consider my country. She says, “Being brave looks like prayer. It looks like praying for your leaders to come to Christ. It looks like loving the people in your country and sticking to your biblical values.” (100 Days to Brave, Annie F. Downs) I know it was implied in the quote, but I feel the need to add “all” to these words. Until we can love everyone like God wants us to love them (despite our differences), we won’t have the unity as believers God wants us to have.

Praying today that all our hearts can be more like His!

My City

In the book of Jeremiah, the prophet calls for the people of Israel to pray for the place where God has carried them into exile. Jeremiah 29:7 says, “Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” Is that something you could do? You’ve been taken to a place where you didn’t want to go, and now, you’re being told you need to pray for that place. I don’t know about you, but I think I would find that difficult. I wouldn’t want to pray for a place I had been carried to against my will. I would want to get away from it as soon as possible.

I found it interesting though when I saw the chapter and verse reference the author had included with today’s devotion. Jeremiah 29 seemed familiar to me for another reason so I decided to look it up. I was right! A few verses later I saw three verses highlighted that are quoted often today especially for those graduating from high school or college. Verses 11-13 say, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.'”

These verses, quoted to high school and college graduates, are close to where the Israelites were called to pray for their new city. In fact, the whole chapter is about the letter Jeremiah sent to the exiles. It makes me wonder how many people miss the first part to get to the second part.

Seven years ago, I was in a similar position. My husband and I were talking about leaving the city where we had only moved back to two years previously. I didn’t want to leave. It was everything that was familiar. We had met and married there. Our kids had been born there, and there were people there we loved and cared about. But, my husband had been unable to find work, so leave we did. We went to one place where he searched for work for about a month, and then drove back across the country to our new city where I only knew one person. It was scary, and several things happened right after we moved there which made my adjustment longer. I’ve written about these events before.

And now, it’s almost seven years later, and I can say I’ve adjusted to the part of the city I live in and the parts of the city I visit most often. I can get around pretty well with my phone (What did we do before cell phones?) and my familiarity with the city.

But, there are parts of the city I still don’t visit; parts where I wouldn’t want to be caught after dark, places where I’m not interested in going. Now, it might be said I’m just one person, and it’s okay if I’m not familiar with every part of my city, and it’s okay if I’m concerned with my safety. Aren’t we all?

The question that keeps coming back to mind though, after reading this devotion, is how am I serving my city. Am I praying for my city and not just rolling my eyes after the latest controversy? Am I seeking opportunities to serve? Am I doing my part in living out my faith in my city? I know I’m not doing any of that well enough, and I know I can do better. It’s all a part of my journey to becoming brave. Praying we can all be brave as we seek to serve in our own cities!

Praying God’s blessings on you all today!

My Neighborhood

I can tell you right now that I have failed with all the author of 100 Days to Brave put in her devotion today. I have not loved my neighbor as Jesus says to in Mark 12:31. “The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” This devotion talks about how we can take this verse to mean more people than just the people in our immediate neighborhood, and I do think I do a better job with that one, but, in my immediate neighborhood, no.

Why? I am not trying to make excuses, but let me explain the particulars of my living situation. Ever since we decided to homeschool and get by with just one income, we’ve lived in places that would be considered non-permanent–apartments, town homes and rental homes. And we’ve lived an itinerant lifestyle–going from place to place for the jobs. Being a naturally private person and not being sure how long I would be in a place has made me hesitant to make attachments in our neighborhoods.

Now, that doesn’t mean we haven’t been pleasant when we’ve crossed someone’s path. It doesn’t mean we haven’t taken care of the places where we’ve lived. (Yes, renters are judged because it is assumed they won’t stay long enough to care about their neighborhoods.) I’ve had conversations with my neighbors about the weather, about their pets, and about how nice it is we have a pool for the hot summers here. Topics that are more surface topics than anything else.

But, I haven’t let very many of them in. And I think I’ve finally figured out why. It’s because of my “moving from place to place” lifestyle. It’s what I experienced as a child, and it’s what I’ve had to deal with as an adult. Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate all the places I’ve seen. I appreciate the opportunities my husband has had to have good jobs in different places. The opportunity to see so many different places in this vast country of mine. Having roots has almost become a lost ideal for the generation coming up behind me. With relocation being relatively easy nowadays, it makes sense to follow the jobs, right? It makes sense to live in a town other than the one you grew up in (if you grew up in just one town), right?

But, why do I still long for roots? How do I get to know my neighbors and plant roots when it is  likely I won’t be in one place for a long time? Is buying a home the only way to put roots down in a neighborhood? Some people would say it is and would stare at you in judgment if you didn’t.

Society has changed though, and I think we, as Christians, me especially, have to do a better job of being present in our neighborhoods even if our neighborhood is an apartment complex. Like the author says, “You can be brave enough to see those people around you, rather than just passing by. You can be brave enough to serve them and love them, and God will use you, friend. You will be living out your mission as a light in this dark world.” (100 Days to Brave, Annie F. Downs)

I can and should be brave enough to get to know my neighbors even if they only live near me for six months or a year. I can be brave enough to be God’s light and share my reason and my hope with my neighbors even if I only know them for a short time. Who knows? By being God’s light here, I might end up spending eternity with them, and isn’t that what really matters?

Praying God’s blessings on you all today!

My Home

I’m starting this post on Father’s Day while the rest of my home is silent either with people taking naps or preparing for trips that are happening this week. Yes, my younger son is leaving on his last trip ever as a youth group member tomorrow. (today, actually) It got me started thinking on this, the ninetieth post in this series. (Y’all, I am only ten posts away from finishing.) And it got me started thinking about this city, the city that’s been my home for almost seven years. When we moved here, my older son was entering his freshman year of high school. I had a dream. I had a dream we would be able to spend both of my sons’ high school years in one place where they could build some roots. Because I didn’t have that when I was growing up. In fact, in my four years of high school, I went to three different high schools. As you might imagine, that was a hard thing for me.

God granted that wish and that prayer. In fact, it looks like we will be in the same city for most of their college years too. I am so grateful because we and they have put roots down, sturdy roots.

At the same though, I am fearful because we are coming close to the most amount of time we have ever spent in one city during our almost twenty-four years of marriage. Two years from this September will mark the most time we have ever spent in one city–nine years. It probably doesn’t seem like that long of a time to you, but it is an eternity to me. It makes me afraid of what I might lose if we had to move again–our roots. So many people I know here have more roots than I will ever have in one place, and it is not something I want to lose.

Now, by saying that, you might think that I would be sharing my home easily and without reservation. You would be wrong. Because of my fear, I am holding onto things more tightly and not living in the freedom I know I have. It’s the wrong thing to do, I know. I should be demonstrating the truth of Galatians 5:13 instead. “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather serve one another humbly in love.” I should be releasing things to God instead of holding onto them so tightly they might lose their breath. It’s hard though. It’s a struggle to work through the mess of life especially when  you think you’re making these sacrifices by yourself.

But, I want to change. I want to release this burden off my heart so I can feel this freedom that God gives us. I want to be able to talk about my hurt and anguish as well as I can write about it. And I want to share my home without feeling inadequate about what I have and without feeling fear that I will lose it all through another move. It’s all a matter of trust, and it starts with trusting God with our biggest resource we have–our homes. Praying that all of us, me especially, would be willing to release our burdens to God so we can experience the tremendous blessings and freedom He wants to give us and so we can be brave in the sacrifices we make for Him!

Praying God’s blessings on you all today!

Meeting With God: I Met God On Inverness Parkway

I’m sitting on my bed and listening to Christian music as I begin writing this post. I’ve taken a few minutes to listen to the words, to really listen, and I’ve realized the conclusion I came to the other day is correct. I have been in the wilderness. God has used the last few months to bring me closer to Him, or He’s tried to anyway. 🙂 I’ve come along for the ride, most days, kicking and screaming, because being brought to my lowest is not one of my favorite things. All of the things I don’t like about myself have come out in full force–pride, jealousy, worthlessness, ugliness. But, God is willing to meet me there, within the ugliness. It doesn’t have to be gone before He comes. And I praise Him for it just like I praise Him when I am walking in His creation.

That seems to be when I’m the bravest–when I’m alone and meeting with God in His creation. Like the author says, “His love makes me brave, and there is no place I love to meet with God more than sitting in His creation. Sitting in nature.” (100 Days to Brave, Annie F. Downs) It bring to mind this Scripture from Psalm 96. Verses 11-12 say, “Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it. Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them; let all the trees of the forest sing for joy.” I can praise God with abandon when I’m alone with Him, and it brings me so much courage.

But, then I have to be around those pesky beings called people, :-), with the chances to wound, to be cruel, and to not reflect what I want to reflect like Paul says in Romans 7. From Verses 18-19, “For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do–this I keep on doing.” We all can be so cruel to each other even when we don’t want to be.

But when we meet with God though, we’re reminded of what those hard times are supposed to do for us. I’m not sure I would have had the words to verbalize this if I hadn’t read them in my friend’s blog. I’m only going to give you a small sample because I want you to go there and read the whole thing. “That bothersome thing, that circumstance, that person, that difficult time, is your school teacher. When it comes, you’re supposed to recognize it at once and say, ‘By the grace of God, I will pass this test.'” (https://upliftgirl.com/2018/06/15/that-thing-is-your-school-teacher/) Here’s a little more. “I’m going to love. I’m going to trust. I’m going to be patient. I will choose God. I will hold on in faith. I will wait.” (https://upliftgirl.com/2018/06/15/that-thing-is-your-school-teacher/) Ok, that was more than a little, but they were words I needed to hear because I seem to have forgotten them lately. Please go visit her blog anyway. The whole post is just brilliant, and she has a lot of wisdom.

Those words, her words–we all fail at them, me especially. I meet with God; I talk to Him; and then I go back out and do the same cruel things because they have been done to me. Where’s the grace we’re supposed to give each other? I know where it is. It’s in the part of our hearts that says we don’t deserve it. Ok, some of you might not have a problem with unmerited favor and grace, but I know I do, and I’m freely admitting it.

I’m working on it though. Working to root the truth of Ephesians 2:8-9 into my heart. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast.”

Because, you see, we don’t just meet with God once, and everything gets settled. No, while we are still here on this earth, we are fighting a battle every day like my friend says in her blog and like it says in Ephesians 6. I’ve not been as well-equipped to fight that battle recently as I should have been, but I know better now. And because I know better, I am starting to feel better.

So, as I end this post, I want to quote Ephesians 6:13 as a goal for myself, and hopefully, a goal for all of us who are believers. “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything to stand.” (emphasis mine)

Praying God’s blessings on you all today!

An addendum or postscript of sorts:

I Met God On Inverness Parkway!

I usually don’t do this, but something important happened between my writing and typing this post. Like the sub-title says, I met God on Inverness Parkway. I was going to run an errand and put gas in my son’s car when I ran out just before getting to the main highway. I said all the not-so-nice things people usually say when I was trying to start the car again and cars were mounting behind me. Then, I realized what was wrong. The gas had completely run out. I made a call and was told that the person would get there as soon as they could. I got out of the car and started directing people around me. I had a big gulp in the middle of my throat because we have all heard the stories about road rage and how people don’t like to be delayed when they’re going somewhere. I was not in a very safe place on the road.

But, then people surprised me, and my faith in humanity was restored. One man stopped and pushed my car onto a side street so it wouldn’t be in the way. Several people stopped and asked if I was okay. More than a dozen by the time my friends with the gas got there. Someone else I know happened to stop by and was willing to help as well. In fact, we were all ready to have a church meeting by the time the gas got there as my pastor and associate pastor were the ones coming to my rescue. I am so grateful that God showed me I wasn’t alone today because sometimes I don’t think I have anyone besides God. Know what I mean? We all think church is the building we go to, but we are all supposed to be the church in the middle of our communities.

So, thank you to all who stopped and asked if I was okay. Thank you to the man who pushed my car out-of-the-way. And thank you especially to my three friends, Garry, Charlie, and Justin, who showed me God in the middle of Inverness Parkway!

The Road Less Traveled

Now that the school year is over, one of the things I’ve incorporated into my day is a regular exercise routine. I’ve found that the more I exercise, the better I feel–physically, mentally, and emotionally. The trifecta, so to speak. Anyway, when I walked my route this morning, I saw things that reminded me of a poem by Robert Frost and then gave me the words I wanted to write for this post when I came back. I took pictures and started mulling over the phrase “a road less traveled” as I walked. By the time I was done, I knew I was going to use the phrase in some form today.

When I first saw today’s devotion, I thought of a couple of different titles for this post than the one I ended up using. “Be Present Even When People Walk Away”  or “Be Present When You Feel Lonely.” The title of the actual devotion is “Be Present Where You Are,” and it’s talking about putting your phone down to be present in the moment. Now, I’m not saying I couldn’t stand to be less reliant on my devices, but those other words were the first that came to mind. I’ve had people walk away from me to talk to someone they considered more valuable. I’ve thought of something to say in a group of people, but by the time I said it, they had moved on to another topic. See what I mean? Lonely. Undesirable. Odd. Different.

But, there’s that word again. Different. It brought me back to Robert Frost’s poem, “The Road Not Taken,” and it brought me back to what I wrote on Monday about being brave enough to be different. (http://thrivingingrace.com/brave-enough-to-be-different/) Then, I knew I had to change the title. My life has been a series of “taking the road less traveled” events. We’ve only owned a home once. We chose to have just one income so we could homeschool. We don’t have the latest gadgets or clothing. (Yay, Wal-Mart and thrift stores!) I’m different, and people don’t know how to react even when I’m trying to do the things God has asked me to do. I liked what the author had to say. “God loves us so much that He gave us His everything, and He asks us to love others the way He loved us. Loving others means being present with them in their pain, being present with them in their joy. It means being all there.” (100 Days to Brave, Annie F. Downs)

This also reflects today’s Bible verse. From John 15:12, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” I try to reflect this in my own life, but sometimes, my presence isn’t what’s wanted or needed. It’s a lonely feeling–not feeling like I’m part of a community.

Then, though, I think back to the poem and to Micah Tyler’s song “Different,” and I think, maybe, that’s the point God is trying to make to me. Maybe I’m not supposed to be invited to the parties or be a part of the conversations. Maybe right now, God wants me to be in the wilderness and not be a part of the community. I don’t know. I don’t know if withdrawing is the answer or continuing to struggle is. I feel so unsure of my value to my community. It’s deep-rooted and deep-seated inside my psyche. But, I know I am valuable to God, and I think that’s where my focus needs to be because it is what has made the difference in my recent struggles.

As I finish this post, I want to quote the poem and the song so you can see the words that started my thoughts rumbling. May God bless you all today!

“The Road Not Taken”

by Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
“Different”
by Micah Tyler
I don’t wanna hear anymore, teach me to listen
I don’t wanna see anymore, give me a vision
That you could move this heart, to be set apart
I don’t need to recognize, the man in the mirror
And I don’t wanna trade Your plan, for something familiar
I can’t waste a day, I can’t stay the same
I wanna be different
I wanna be changed
‘Til all of me is gone
And all that remains
Is a fire so bright
The whole world can see
That there’s something different
So come and be different
In me
And I don’t wanna spend my life, stuck in a pattern
And I don’t wanna gain this world but lose what matters
And so I’m giving up, everything because
I wanna be different
I wanna be changed
‘Til all of me is gone
And all that remains
Is a fire so bright
The whole world can see
That there’s something different
So come and be different; oh-oh
I know, that I am far, from perfect
But through You, the cross still says, I’m worth it
So take this beating in my heart and
Come and finish what You started
When they see me, let them see You
‘Cause I just wanna be different, ye-ey
I wanna be different
I wanna be changed
‘Til all of me is gone
And all that remains
Oh is a fire so bright
The whole world can see
That there’s something different
So come and be different
I just wanna be different
So could You be different
In me

Sacred Places

I’m by myself today in my home. This doesn’t happen very often. One of my children is on a trip, and the other is at his internship. And, of course, my husband is at work. I have Christian music playing from my Spotify list, and I am writing this post. It is quiet and peaceful. God is present like He has been present since the beginning of my day.

The author is talking about sacred places today, about how she has a special place in her home where she goes when she wants to talk to God. It’s not the only place where she goes, but it’s the place where she’s intentional. It’s special to her.

All through the Old Testament, it talks about the places God goes and how these places are sacred. Moses even had to take his sandals off to be with God. From Exodus 3:5, “‘Do not come any closer,’ God said. ‘Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.'” People recognized that God was holy and deserved our reverence. They also were bound by God’s law that said they needed to recognize this.

We’re not bound by Old Testament law anymore because we have Jesus and because the Holy Spirit lives in us. We can talk to God through Jesus anytime and anywhere. It’s amazing! God’s grace is amazing! But, I think we might have lost something through this immediate access. God is holy too! We should revere Him and make talking to Him a priority with our reverence.

This is something I know I need to work on. I live in a small home with three other people during the summer and two other people during the school year. There’s always the possibility of an interruption which is why I write my prayers down more often than not, why I say them inside of my head, and why I don’t have a sacred space within my home. I admit I have a tendency to be self-conscious about praying out loud, and I also can be easily distracted which is why I’m glad it’s quiet here today. I can talk to God out loud when I’m by myself. It’s not a problem at all.

There is a space I consider sacred though, but it’s not inside my home. It’s at the lake which is near my home. I can walk down there and view God’s creation. The plants, animals, water, trees, sky, clouds–it’s all amazing. This place is holy ground for me. I can go down there and breathe, and the world doesn’t seem so bad. I pray too and ask God to give me strength to cope. Maybe, that needs to be the place I go when I want to talk to God–my sacred place.

But, I’m not always intentional about going out there. Sometimes, it’s raining. Sometimes, it’s too hot. Occasionally, it’s snowing or too cold. (That’s weather in the southeastern United States for you. 🙂 ) So, I think I might need to figure out a place where I can go and pray inside my home. A place where I will be the least likely to be distracted. A place that is sacred. Like the author says, “Brave people are intentional people, and you’ve got to be intentional about your time with the Lord. You can’t expect to be brave without spending time with Him–which is the whole reason you can be brave.” (100 Days to Brave, Annie F. Downs) This is something I want with all my heart–the ability to be brave in God’s presence and in the presence of others! May God be with us as we seek Him today!

Praying God’s blessings on you all today!

 

Brave Enough to be Different

Including today’s post, I have fifteen more posts to write before I am done blogging through the book 100 Days to Brave. It’s been an interesting journey. It’s been an educational journey. It’s been a journey full of sadness and of joy. And it’s been a journey where I’ve learned about myself and my faith. Today’s post has been on my mind for a few days, and it’s almost a relief to get the words out of my brain and onto the screen. Be patient with me. It might not make sense at first, but I promise, I will pull it all together by the end.

I heard a story a few weeks ago. Someone was telling me how they didn’t like to talk about what they were interested in because no one around them was interested in it. They thought Jesus might think they were rude  if they weren’t focused on their friends’ interests and concerns. My first thought was, ‘Wow! This person really gets it. They could be the poster child for teaching others what it means when Scripture says we’re supposed to deny ourselves.’ Just as I was recovering from this thought though and from what I thought this person could teach me, they said something that struck  me. They were lonely. Now, I’m not saying they didn’t have anything at all in common with this group of people. They share the same faith; they share some similar interests; they like spending time together. But, it wasn’t enough for this person not to feel lonely. They even told me they were looking forward to branching out in the next few months and meeting other people who shared their interests.

This got me thinking because I’ve often felt this way in a group of people. Lonely. Odd. Weird. Different. We all come at faith and denial of self differently because, well, we are different. God made each of us differently. But, is there such a thing as being too different in the church to be accepted for who we are as a person? Should we have to deny ourselves completely to be accepted? There shouldn’t be a thing as being too different, but sadly enough, I think there is. Some differences are okay, but when the differences get to be noticeable, rejection happens. We are uncomfortable with what we don’t understand so we avoid it.

I think about the differences that are noticeable and the ones that are not so noticeable. I think about the ones I know who have left the church because they were too different and not accepted because of it. I think about the ones who don’t come that often because they haven’t been able to connect with others because of their differences. And I think about those of us who make the effort week after week though we are lonely within the crowd and not even sure we are making a difference by being there. (That would be me.) My mind wants to understand why this happens, but I don’t think I’ll know for sure until I see Jesus.

So, what does all this have to do with denial of self and being brave enough to be different? First, I get the part about not being selfish. I Timothy 6:18-19 says, “Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.” God doesn’t want us to be selfish. I agree with this and embrace it, but it’s not what I’m trying to say.

Scripture also gives us several examples of putting off our old self and sinful nature. From Ephesians 4:22-24, “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” Of course, I agree with this. We’re supposed to put off our sinful natures each and every day so we can become more like God. We won’t be totally successful until our journey here is done, but we’re supposed to keep trying anyway. I also embrace this, but it’s not what I’m trying to say either.

I guess what I mean is deny ourselves and embrace our differences. The church should make sure all know they are welcome. Race, gender, physical illness (Even the ones that can’t be seen.), mental illness (Those definitely can’t be seen.), financial status, marital status, occupation, age, different interests–none of those things that make us different should manner. None of them!  We should embrace Jesus and embrace what all of us bring to the table. But until that happens, I will be brave enough to be different out loud so that others will know they aren’t alone.

Praying God’s blessings on you all today!

 

Generous With Our Homes

In the years of our marriage, we’ve done very little entertaining in our home for many reasons. First, many times our home wasn’t big enough. When we started homeschooling twelve years ago, we knew our homes would be small from then on. In fact, since then, we’ve lived in apartments and town homes with only one house thrown in during that time. It doesn’t bother us or our kids, but having people over tends to be more difficult the smaller a person’s home is. Second, we’ve felt self-conscious, or at least, I did. Because of the choices we had made about educating our kids, we didn’t have a lot of money and didn’t think people would like spending time with us because of it. And finally, we haven’t opened our home a lot because we tend to be introverts. We walk into our home and expect it to be a shelter from a world which has become dark. We want to be by ourselves until the next time we have to go out and be a part of the world again.

We’ve used these reasons for years only opening our home when our kids wanted to have people over or when I’ve wanted to invite special children over. (Children tend to not be as judgmental as adults are.) We’ve also found bigger spaces to have eighteenth birthday parties for our sons because we knew we wouldn’t have enough space to host all the people they wanted to invite.

But, God wants us to open our homes to others no matter how much we have, and I’m just now realizing this might be a good thing for me. When I was younger, people opened their homes to me. There was one family in particular, while I was in college, who have always made me feel like I was a part of their family. They are family to me, and I am family to them. I’ve always tried to pay that hospitality forward, but not as much in my home as I possibly could have. And I’ve realized that needs to change. The Bible verse the author used in today’s devotion and her words themselves particularly touched me. First, here is Hebrews 13:16 from the Message version of the Bible. “Make sure you don’t take things for granted and go slack in working for the common good; share what you have with others. God takes particular pleasure in acts of worship–a different kind of “sacrifice”–that take place in kitchen and workplace and on the streets.” I believe making that sacrifice will lessen the loneliness of the people I come in contact with and will in turn lessen my loneliness. The author of the devotion agrees. “But brave people recognize that they can use their home to love others with the love of Christ. Brave people are generous with their homes. Brave people share–even their sanctuaries–with others.” (100 Days to Brave, Annie F. Downs)

So, will all that, my husband and I have been cleaning and re-organizing in preparation for the hospitality we want to begin. I’ve been walking towards the bravery required to make the invitations. God is giving me courage as I’m considering taking the first steps out of my comfort zone with regard to my home. Hopefully, we will be able to show God’s love to the people who enter our home like my friends did all those years ago with me and like God wants us to do today. Praying for all of us as we consider how God wants us to be generous with all the aspects of our lives!

Praying God’s blessings on you all today!