Tag Archives: church

Not Enough

He was just walking around downtown Sunday, looking for someone to bum a cigarette from.

He happened to walk by the church, was invited in and stumbled upon our two snacks and a drink surprise on Easter. 

Something hit me when he walked by. I don’t know what. Maybe it was that he was young and reminded me of my students. Maybe it was that he looked a little lost and a lot hungry. Definitely it was that God nudge that I sometimes ignore. 

I didn’t ignore the nudge.

He was 20. Went to a local high school. Straight A student freshman and sophomore years. Barely passing after that.

I didn’t know for sure that he was homeless until a young person from the church stopped to talk to him, said he knew him from when HE was homeless. I asked if I could pray with him. Talked about God meets us where we are not where we think we should be. How he uses us in all our brokenness (THANK GOODNESS!).

The boy left church service a few minutes in. I thought he’d skipped out, but he found me after to let me know he’d gotten sick but didn’t leave. He heard the whole message.

I gave him a hug and we talked about dancing because at the end of service a DJ played dub step and the kid was a self-taught dancer. Then I told him I hoped to see him next week and walked away.

And ever since he’s been on my mind–especially with the rain and cold. 

I kind of feel like crying when I think about him. I mean I talked with him, prayed with him, gave him a hug, but then I walked away and went on about life, and he went back to the streets. It’s not enough. But I don’t know what enough is. How many others like him and the other young man from the church are out there? How can we be okay with kids living on the streets? How can we NOT be okay with it? 

I know homelessness is a huge issue, far bigger than my limited past understands. When I naively said something about it being so sad and usually a substance abuse issue, my niece who’s been there said “You’d be surprised,” and I realized I really have no clue and all my suppositions are pointless.

I know an answer. One. God.

And that answer is the only way I can come to terms with the fact that I left church Sunday with that boy walking one way and me headed off to lunch with friends. But even that feels like a cop-out, an easy answer for the teacher who’s building a house and complains that the old house gets hot in the summer but who’s never been hungry or alone or so lost that walking around bumming cigarettes off strangers is the norm. For the Christian who’s all fine and good saying “Be the Jesus to those who don’t know HIm” but then only does so in thimblesfull of hugs and prayers and maybe a donation every once in a while.

The last six weeks I’ve been listening to Colonial preacher JIm Botts about being a Roof Wrecker and for the last year and a half I’ve listened to One Life minister Ronnie Whitfield about the church being Jesus to the lost, out in the community, NOT a building. It’s changed me. Made me see how little I do, how much more God asks from us, how many are searching for something to fill a void and I feel so tiny and so limited by myself.

There’s a great Nooma video about Jesus asking the disciples to take his yoke and what that really means and how it’s still what God asks from us today. I NEVER felt guilty about my lack there until now. 

I’m not sure what the answers are. I’ll let you know what I find out.

You Gotta Have Faith

Photo by Randy Adams used via creative commons license. Link at end of post.

A few years ago one of our small group members, Sandra, talked to us about faith. She said when her husband lost his job in OKC, they had absolute faith that God would get them through the tough times. They ended up here where their children grew up in great schools with great friends. She said it wasn’t easy, but they constantly told themselves that God was in control. Thank GOD, because I’m not sure how I would’ve survived the last several years without Sandra and Gerald! Last year two of our friends said they were going on a mission trip to Panama, and they were going to raise all the money to do so. The last month they still had a ways to go, but they never lost faith. Sure enough, by the end they raised every bit of money they needed. People like Bonnie and Justin teach me so much! It’s so hard sometimes to trust God. Let Go and Let God seems easy. It’s not.  Two years ago we almost bought a house. We didn’t love the house, but we liked it all right. We went to the bank, got approved to make an offer, but when we got home 10 minutes later, we had a message from the lending officer. They’d changed their minds. The realtor suggested we go to another bank, but the whole thing struck me as odd. DH and I decided the bank’s reversal had to be a God thing. Then last year’s summer from Hades with over 100 100-degree days and the months-long drought dried up all the Lee’s Total Lawn Care business. Had we bought the house we thought we wanted then, last year would have been an incredibly tough year financially. But God’s no then wasn’t really a no. It was a wait. This year we’re looking at house plans to build during the winter. It’s scary to make that kind of investment, but when I think back over the last few years of Dave Ramsey and prayer, I have faith things will work out exactly as they’re supposed to.###

If you like my blog, I hope you’ll look at my books available in print everywhere and in eformat for kindle. I write YA as Elizabeth Lee (Honor and LiesDead Girl Walking: The Guardian Book 1) and christian fiction as Mary Beth Lee (Grace is Enough, Letting Go). Find out more on my Amazon author’s page. If you’re a reviewer and would like to review my books for Amazon, Good Reads or a personal blog, let me know. THANKS!###

Randy Adams Photo Link

 

A Home for Every Heart

My parents are ministers. My grandparents were ministers. I was raised in the church. And still, in my early 20s I wasn’t sure I believed in God. I’d definitely turned my back on organized religion.

I went to church with my parents sometimes, and I took my daughter to church sometimes, but I could have argued with the best of them about how the church was created for two reasons: money and the subjugation of women.
The lifestyle I lived could be classified as humanistic, I suppose. I was a “good” person. Enough said.
When an elderly customer invited my boyfriend to church one Sunday, I’m not sure why we went. Probably because they were expecting a new minister and the church was by the mall.
Whatever the reason, we went. And from the moment we walked through the doors, the church motto, “A Home for Every Heart” rang true. We weren’t judged. We were accepted. Everything changed.
My church made a point to minister to people with a world of hurt in their eyes. I think Letting Go started way back then. An idea I had to grow into.
So many people hurt today. And so often we forget the role of the church as my minister today says is to Love God, Love People. We get so caught up in life or work or what we need, we forget about others. I’m certainly guilty of that. Or we get so holy and full of our “rules” we think we’re better than others. I’ve been there, too.
Thankfully, God doesn’t expect perfection, but he did give us direction.
John 13:34-35 (NIV)
34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Today, I believe. I don’t clobber people upside the head with that belief. I don’t preach hellfire and brimstone. I don’t talk about the rules. I simply say God sent His son to die for our sins and He loves us unconditionally. He’s ALWAYS there, even when we don’t believe. ###

Find out more about my books on my Amazon author’s page. Letting Go by Mary Beth Lee available in kindle format and print.

***GUEST BLOGGER alert. Janet Brown will be guest blogging here tomorrow. Her story is so inspirational. Please stop by!

Language Barriers, Life Lessons, Letting Go

Image by Shades of Blue, Roxanne Ready. Used by Creative Commons license.

Susie Dillon took a tray of cookies out of the oven and acknowledged that her husband was right. Jed was more than a little interested in Clarissa Dye.
And Paul was right about something else. The wariness in Clarissa’s eyes came about from something dark and troublesome.
“She’ s hurting, she doesn’t trust and she’s not sure about sticking around here. You can tell that,” she said.
“I imagine she’s a lot like the barn kittens. Scared to death to get close to anyone,” Paul agreed, his blue eyes sad and sure. Susie remembered those eyes back when they were bloodshot and unfocused morning after morning. When they were hiding truths. When they were bitter and angry, and she felt alone against the world with the gift of a baby boy and a ranch to take care of.
But she hadn’t been alone. God was always there.
“Don’t you think maybe God sent her to us so we can show her love?” Susie couldn’t help but wonder.
“I know God’s in our driver’s seat, Susie, but if it comes down to this girl or Jed and Mack, we can’t let her hurt them.” Letting Go by Mary Beth Lee, July 2012

God’s in our driver’s seat. Another way to say let go and let God. It’s a lesson it took me years to learn. When I stumbled upon my small group, I wasn’t letting God control much of anything. I wanted something to do and the class happened to meet across from the youth building where I’d dropped DD off. Before too long the small group was working through one bible study after another that challenged me to let go and let God. I resisted. Back then I was focused on work more than anything. I let the yearbook and newspaper run my life. My family came second, and they knew it. I fit God in–sometimes–when I could. Or when I needed Him. Lucky for me God’s there for us even when we’re not there for Him.
In 2008 I shattered my ankle in a clutzy accident. I ended up stuck in Rome a week before yearbook camp was supposed to start. I was stuck in an Italian public hospital room with five Italian women, none of whom spoke much English. My only Italian: ciao, limoncello and gelato. My prayers went something like this. “Dear God, please let me go home now. I need to get back for work. I don’t want to be stuck here. I’m scared of this hospital!”
God didn’t answer my prayers. He put two amazing people in place to help me, though. One, a grandfather of a student on the trip with me, happened to be a minister also. He stayed back with me because he said no way was I staying in Italy alone. The other, Teresa, worked for the tour company I was traveling with. She came to see me every day to translate and to talk to me. No one asked her to be there for me, but when she heard about the American teacher stuck in the hospital, she felt horrible for me and wanted me to have fond memories of her country.
Without those two, I’m not sure how I would’ve made it. Because not only did God not answer my prayers, He let me stew in that hospital bed for seven days in the midst of a horrible heat wave. The airlines wouldn’t let me travel because the break was so severe they were afraid I’d die. I didn’t care. I had a yearbook camp to get ready for, and I needed to get home. My idea of letting go and letting God was telling Him what I needed and expecting that to happen.
The Italians thought I was hilarious with my schedule book and highlighter and iPod Touch and the hours I spent on the phone coordinating camp.
Eight days and one surgery later, I made it back to the States. I said I understood let go and let God, but I was fooling myself.
Before school started my principal told me to take all the time I needed to get back into the swing of things. I had over 100 sick days. Still, though, I arranged my PT to take place before school and had DH wheel me to my room every day. I didn’t miss. I worked hard to get back to normal because I needed to be at deadlines after school. I graduated from wheel chair to walker to limping along the hallways. It didn’t take long for the job to come first again in my life.
The next year I got swine flu at the end of October and was sick until New Year’s. I missed six days of school instead of the two-three weeks I should’ve. Once again, the job controlled everything.
Somewhere in there though, something changed. I quit missing small group for work, DH and I got involved in the college ministry at church and I saw how shallow a life led by work could be. I saw the truth of how I hurt my family and myself. My small group stood by me as I lived through those changes. By the end of that school year, I was able to say the words “Let Go and Let God,” and mean them. Life’s a lot easier when you live by that principle.
I still find myself switching into the job first, family second, God third lifestyle every once in a while. I have to work to NOT go there. I’m not sure why because life is much better when I let God stay in the driver’s seat. He’s a much better driver than I am! ###
Find out more about my books on my Amazon author’s page.
Letting Go, available now for kindle and in print.

Cover art by Mary Beth Lee.

 

 

Cookie image link http://www.flickr.com/photos/shardsofblue/5875237526/in/photostream/

Forgiveness and Letting Go

I’ve got to forgive myself. I’ve got to quit limiting the grace of God. I’ve got to pray and ask for God’s help in this. —Letting Go, July 2012.

This entry from a prayer journal provides a central theme for my new novel, Letting Go. It’s funny how we limit God. How we think we’re not good enough for Him, or how we can maybe do something good enough for Him to forgive us. Forgiveness isn’t like that, though. It’s freely given. We just have to accept it. And then we have to let go of the guilt that sticks with us, constantly bombarding us, reminding us we’re not good enough for God, reminding us that we’ve failed.
Over the last few years we’ve studied forgiveness several times in small group. One of the most freeing lessons I’ve learned is that God knows we’ve failed, AND he fully expects us to fail again. He doesn’t expect perfection.
In Letting Go, Clarissa Dye has to learn this lesson. She’s not alone. Fortunately, someone steps up and shares his story of overcoming addiction, of the grace of God. And then he shows her by living a life of acceptance and love. He doesn’t preach, he doesn’t push. He’s there, though, and that makes the difference.
Letting Go is a novel, but I’ve seen that same acceptance and love make a huge difference in people’s lives so many times. The other day a friend said sometimes christians are christianity’s worst enemies. I think they were right. My minister says Love God, Love People all the time. I think that’s key. I know that’s something I need to remember.###

Find out more about my books by checking out my author page on Amazon. Letting Go available in kindle format and in print.

Photo by Ryk Neethling used by Creative Commons license.

Back to the Basics

Tough.
Last night in small group God smacked me upside the head. Not sure that was the intent, but it happened. We’re doing the John Ortberg study: God is Closer Than You Think.
I’m having this tough year, not just at school but outside the classroom as well. Spiritually, physically, emotionally. It’s like I’m in battle. Nothing like when I broke my ankle where there was so much evidence of the issue. Nothing like when I had that newspaper year where the only person who wanted to work was the editor. It’s more a constant pinging. A constant Really? You’ve got to be kidding me! No freaking way kind of year.
Anyway, we’re sitting there watching and reading and it’s like God is yelling: Look at David. Look at Solomon. Look at Habakkuk. Look at Job. Look at Mary. Look at Paul.
You just THINK you’ve got it tough. They know tough. And what did they do? They turned to Me.They said I will praise your name on high. I will lift my voice to You. I will turn to YOU even when I feel alone, when I don’t feel Your presence. I will faithfully believe You hold me in Your hands because YOU are God and I am human and I can’t do this alone, but You’ve got this.
I started this year determined to embrace those words. And then all this stuff happened. Stuff that had me all confused and researching and asking questions and listening to sermons, not for their messages but for what I might or might not hear. I totally forgot the whole point of the Word.
At first I prayed. Then I prayed for me. Then I quit praying.
And in the last six weeks as I grew more and more frustrated, I didn’t turn to God, I turned to myself. BAD IDEA!
Last night, though, as we shared the verses found in the second chapter of the Ortberg study, I realized what I’d done. When we got in the car to leave I told Brian it was like God spoke in those moments. He said HAVE FAITH. I realized then that giving everything to Him is just that. EVERYTHING. I’ve got to give it to Him and trust Him and obey Him and believe He’s got this. It’s not a 50-50 split. It’s an all or nothing.
So here I am. Giving it ALL to God. My job, my writing, my health, the spiritual battle I’ve been dealing with, the ministry I’m involved with. ALL.
God help me to remember You’ve got this. You are in control. And even when it feels like I’m alone, I’m not. You are worthy. You are mighty. You are God.

Let’s Talk About Sex…

…at church.
Seriously.
The college ministry DH and I volunteer for is currently in the middle of a relationship series, and today, they hit on one of the most important aspects= emotions.
I live in the bible belt. When we talk about sex in public forums it tends to be a completely physical conversation. “Don’t do this. You’ll get pregnant, catch this disease, see this picture–you don’t want that, do you?”
Rarely does anyone ever talk about the reality of attraction (lust–back in the day DH wore Obsession cologne. I loved that stuff. Pheremone City. Man..just thinking about it gives me chills. AND you know what? There’s NOTHING wrong with that. That’s the point.) and the emotional investment of a sexual relationship and the emotional baggage if/when that relationship fails.
We only had a few minutes to talk today, nowhere near the time needed to have an open, honest FRANK discussion about sex, but we’ve got two more weeks to continue the discussion.

READING: The Sharing Knife book four. OMG! Bujold is a goddess. Can’t believe I missed her before now. New author to glom. Woo hoo!