Thursday, February 28, 2013

Lent and Other Christian Traditions

In the last few years, I've heard a lot about Lent. I don't remember hearing much about it growing up. I knew it was a period of time before Easter and that people often fasted during it. But I knew little else about it. Beginning to hear about it more increased my curiosity to learn more about it.

My crash course in Lent taught me the following:
  • Lent is the 40 days leading up to Easter and excludes Sundays.
  • Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on the Thursday before Good Friday.
  • Lent is a time of preparation leading to Easter, commonly observed by fasting.
  • Ultimately, Lent is a time of preparation leading up to the events of Good Friday and Easter Sunday.
Learning about Lent also explained to me why I had never heard much about it before. It's not something all Christian churches observe, mine being one that traditionally does not.

I've also come to realize that learning from traditions in other Christian churches can help us to grow in our understanding of following Christ. I think this is one of those times.

Even if we choose not observe lent ourselves, there is value in realizing the importance of making time in our lives for fasting and repentance. And for taking time to reflect on the events we remember each year at Easter.

Lent isn't mentioned in Scripture, so we can never make it something required for all Christians. But, if something has survived as many years of church tradition, it may be something worth looking at. Not because we necessarily need to follow the tradition, but because we need to understand why so many who have gone before us have seen the value in something.

And so I'm left to reflect on what, if any, place the observance of Lent should have in my life. I see value in it and yet, I find myself cautious of getting caught up in legalism over it.

I guess ultimately this is something to talk to God about. If it's being done for the right reasons, then it can be a good thing in our relationship with God. If it's being done for the wrong reasons, then it can have the opposite effect to what we want it to.

I guess the thing I want to leave you with in this post is a challenge to think about your own life and about the things you do in certain seasons to grow deeper in your walk with God. You might have things you do at certain times without realizing you do. We have them because they help us.

But, they might not work the same way for someone else. They may have different things they do in those seasons. And maybe if we take the time to hear from others and learn what works for them, we'll grow more in our own walk with God.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Whose Approval Are You Seeking?

"Am I now trying to win the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ." (Galatians 1:10)

Whose approval do you most want to receive?

Who does it matter most to you that they recognize and appreciate what you do?

If we're honest, we probably all have people in our lives where knowing they appreciate, value, or approve of what we do is important to us. We want to hear from them we're doing a good job.

I don't think there's anything inherently wrong with us, unless getting their approval becomes the driving force behind all that we do and the choices we make.

Sometimes being a follower of Christ means we have to do the unpopular thing. And the people we want to hear tell us we did a good job, won't necessarily like what we do.

It's in those moments when we have to decide to do things to please God, not other people. That's what Paul is talking about in Galatians 1:10. Learning to live for God's approval rather than man's.

It may not always be easy, but it is important. In the end, it's God's approval that matters.

Whose approval are you seeking?

Saturday, February 23, 2013

No Excuses for not Knowing

If you're a friend on Facebook, you would notice that I have my "causes" I support and I share things from them regularly. In the last week, that has meant many mentions of an event coming up this evening. I've always been hesitant to post too much about anything because I don't want to frustrate people.

But, when I think about it, I realize that the only way people know what's going on outside of their little world, is if other people let them know. It doesn't mean I'll share everything, but it does mean I will share what I see as worthwhile to share.

It's so easy to get stuck in our own world and never go beyond it. But the truth is, there's an entire world out there that we can't ignore. Living in ignorance in the ultra-connected world we now have isn't acceptable.

Once we know, it becomes our choice how we respond. Each of us is supposed to help with different things. We may feel like one area is where we are supposed to be involved, while another area is not the place we are to be involved. But, even if we're not involved in one area, it doesn't become an excuse for us to not know anything about it.

So, I find myself wondering, what are you involved with that you need to be sharing with the world around you? What do you believe in that needs to be shared with the world around you?

And how do you share it without pushing people away?

For me, I think it comes down to those things being a part of who you are. My friends know where I work and they know why I work there. So, when I share things about the place where I work and the "cause" we are part of, they know it's coming from who I am. I'm not just telling them they should do something. I'm doing something and then telling them about it. Because I believe in it.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Giving What You Have

Acts 3:1-10 is an account of Peter and John healing a man who had been crippled form birth. The healing in itself is a great thing. But, when I was reading it, I was struck by something different from it.

In verse 6, in response to the beggar's request for money, Peter says these words, "Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk."

Peter knew what he didn't have, but he also knew what he did have. And he gave what he had to give to this man.

This led to realization about my own life as a follower of Christ. God doesn't ask me to give what I don't have to give. He doesn't ask you to either.

This doesn't mean we won't be asked to give sacrificially. Or beyond what we, in our human strength, think we're able to give.

But, whatever we are asked to give, it will be what God knows we have to give. Even if we don't think we have it.

In this account in Acts 3, Peter and John didn't have money to give to the beggar. But they didn't let that stop them from giving him something. They gave him healing, because they knew they could give him that.

It started me thinking about how I respond in times when what I'm asked for is something I know I don't have to give. Do I back away thinking I have nothing to give? Or do I look for other things that I have to give that can help in the situation?

And about those situations where, in my humanity, I don't feel like I have the ability to give what God is asking me to give. Will I trust that if God is asking me to give it, it's because He knows that in Him I do have it to give?

What about you?

Tuesday, February 19, 2013



Life is full of them.

Some of them are easy to make. And some are much more difficult.

I don't know if there's even a day that goes by where we don't have to make choices of some kind.

When we read Scripture we're presented with even more choices. God tells us what He wants, what His standards are, but He always leaves it as our choice whether we follow them.

Even once we've chosen to follow God, we're faced with choices. We still choose whether to obey what God says. We still choose whether to accept all that He is offering us.

And those choices in our walk as followers of Christ affect our experience as followers of Christ. And they can influence the way we see things in Scripture.

The reality is that all of life comes down to a series of choices. And that is particularly true of our walk with God. Choosing to follow God didn't suddenly turn us into robots who just do what we're supposed to do.

Recently, I've been challenged about the choices I make myself.

What will I make more important in my life?

Will I obey what God says even when it's hard?

Will I accept and welcome in my life all that God has given me?

What about you? How will you answer these questions?

Sunday, February 17, 2013

7 of my Favourite Scriptures

Last week I wrote a post about seven quotes that have impacted my life. It made me think about something I've read that is even more important and has impacted my life in a bigger way than those quotes.

It's God's Word I would be talking about. There's nothing quite like it in my life.

There's far more than seven verses that have impacted my life. But today I will share just seven of them that have had a big impact on how I live my life.

Peter is talking about how we should live our lives differently from the world around us. Live that should be different enough that those around us notice something is different. The way we live should make others wonder why we're different.

To me, it's a pretty simple reminder of how much God values each one of us and cares about the details of our lives. That's a great truth to hold onto. Especially when we may find it difficult to believe ourselves. Sometimes we have to read the truth before we begin to believe the truth.

These verses make it pretty clear that there is absolutely nothing that can separate us from God's love for us. He is with us. He is on our side. We're not alone in whatever we may be going through.

What a relief to know that as followers of Christ we no longer stand condemned. We are forgiven and our condemnation is gone.

We will be convicted of things in our lives that aren't in line with what God has for us, but we're not condemned because of them. The price has been paid already.

God is the One who is at work in us to what He has for us to do. There are things we need to do as followers of Christ in obedience to Him. But the good thing is we don't have to do it completely in our own strength. God is at work in us so we can do these things.

God doesn't expect us to carry heavy burdens on our own. He invites us to take them to Him and give them to Him. He will give us something we can carry rather than the heavy load we have been carrying. Jesus gives us the rest we need when we take our burdens to Him.

We have no reason to fear anything.If God has asked us to do something, we can step out with the courage to do it. God will go with us every step of the way.

Those are just seven of the many verses God has used to speak to me in my life. There's definitely many more I could have chosen to use. Keeping this list to only seven was more difficult than trying to keep my list of quotes last week to only seven.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Everything We Need

"His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness."
2 Peter 1:3
When I read this verse, my first thought is usually "everything I need!?!?!" If I've been given everything I need to live a godly life, then why do I still struggle to live a godly life? Why do I do the same thing I know I shouldn't over and over? Why do I have a hard time doing the things I know I should do? It doesn't seem to make sense.
As I read this verse a couple of day ago, I realized something I hadn't before. God has given me everything, but that doesn't mean I'm choosing to accept all that has been given to me. If I don't accept the gift and actually make it a part of my life, it doesn't do me any good.
The gift God has given me to live a godly life is a knowledge of Him. And that isn't a one time gift either. It's ongoing as we spend time with Him and get to know Him better over a lifetime.
So, it's true. God has given us everything we need to live a godly life. But it's our choice what we do with what we have been given.
We can choose to open the gift and learn how to live a godly life.
Or we can put the gift on the shelf and go on the way we've always lived. All the while getting frustrated that this verse and others like it don't seem to be true.
Accepting the entire gift that God has given us to live a godly life doesn't mean we'll do it perfectly right away. We'll still make mistakes. But, we'll never live a godly life if we don't take the time to grow in our knowledge of God.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

A Theology Worth Smuggling

Do you have a theology worth smuggling?

I read a book a few years ago that talked about this. I stumbled across a quote from the book I had written down a couple days ago.

"A theology not worth smuggling is not worth having. . . . A theology worth smuggling serves the church well because it is based on listening to God rather than just talking and writing about God - the kind of reflection that cultivates intimacy with Christ."
(Earl Creps, Offroad Discipline)

The author makes a bold point in declaring that if our theology isn't worth smuggling it's not worth having.

But maybe the place to begin is to define theology. It's one of those words that gets thrown around in Christian circles without being defined. And because it seems like everyone else is using it and knows what it means, no one asks what it means for fear of looking "stupid." We do ourselves a dis-service when we do this.

The way I've always defined theology and the way I'm talking about it in this post is as follows: Theology is the series of beliefs about God, the Bible, and life as a follower of Christ that changes the way a person lives.

We often think of theology as something academic that only biblical scholars study. But actually all of us have a theology and are students of theology if we spend any time studying Scripture and following God. The part we often miss is that our theology should affect the way we live our lives. If it doesn't, something is missing.

So, I ask you again: Do you have a theology worth smuggling?

If you study Christian history , it quickly becomes apparent that many have had such a theology. And there are people today who do as well. People - past and present - who are so completely sold out to what they believe that they will give everything - including their lives - for it. These people are those who are so transformed by what they believe and the way they live their lives so changed that nothing stops them - not even death - from taking their theology to others.

Now, that's not a call all of us have. Some of us are supposed to stay in places where our theology doesn't put us in danger of death. We live our theology is a safe place to do so.

But that doesn't change the fact that if our theology isn't worth smuggling, it's not worth having. For our theology to be worth giving our lives to, it must be something we would still believe and live even if it wasn't safe to do so.

It's something challenging to think about.

Do you have a theology worth smuggling?

Saturday, February 9, 2013

7 Quotes That Have Impacted How I Live

The written word has always spoken to me. Over the years I have read several things that jumped off the page at me and have had an impact on how I live my life.

A couple of people in a writer's group I'm a part of have written posts on seven quotes that have been inspirational for them. And they've challenged the rest of us to do the same.

For some the challenge may be finding seven quotes. For me the challenge was keeping it to only seven. I collect quotes that challenge me or make me think. For this I picked seven quotes that have impacted the way I live my life to share with you. I hope they speak to you as well.

I don't always find it easy to love people. Lots of the time people annoy or frustrate me. But that can be a lonely way to live. If you can't love people, you live an isolated existence.

People become easier for me to love when I look for the image of God in them. All of us were created in the image of God and we still carry it in us, even if it's marred right now.

When we live our lives looking for what is still there of the image of God in people, it becomes easier to love them. And those glimpses of we see are how God intended them to completely be.

We must look for the image of God in everyone and love them because of it. Then we begin to see those people as God intended us to see them in the first place, and love them.

I may have actually seen this one on a sign somewhere. I don't know who would have written it, but it spoke to me when I saw it. Because I do this far too often.

I have two choices when tomorrow comes. I can live the day in front of me. Or I can spend tomorrow dwelling on what I did today - the good and the bad.

If I choose tomorrow to replay everything from today, I will lose tomorrow. I will let today take over tomorrow.

This quote challenges me not to do that. I need to let today be today and tomorrow to be tomorrow. Instead of dwelling on today, tomorrow I need to move forward having learned from today.

Life isnt' always easy. Sometimes God feels far away or He seems silent.

It's in those moments when we call to God with questions and don't get an answer, but we know He's there with us, that truly changes us.

Comparison. It's deadly. Yet we do it all the time.

Who has the better house, car haircut, clothes, job, family. Who looks more put together.

Comparison is something we do all the time, but we forget one important truth. We're taking the mess of our lives that we try to hide from everyone else and compare it to the best of everyone we meet. If we're presenting only our best to the world, then it would probably be reasonable to assume everyone else is as well.

So why compare our mess to their best? When we think it through, it really doesn't make sense. It sets us up to be insecure and feel less than.

Do you know what you're supposed to do? Then do it, whether you think it will be successful or not. If we hold ourselves back because we're too worried about whether we'll fail at it, we miss out on too much of life.

We are to work at what we do, most of the time without notice. And not get caught up in worrying about whether we will succeed or fail. Making mistakes, even failing, will happen sometimes. That's life and we can't allow it to hold us back.

What exactly life will look like one month, one year, or five years down the road may be unknown to us. But we can rest assured that the God we know does know. And because we know God and know He loves us, we can trust Him with our future. We don't have to be afraid to leave it in His hands.

God can redeem anything and anyone to use them for His glory. No matter how big I think I screwed up, God can redeem it. A failure is never the end of my usefulness for God. That means it's safe for me to try something new. For me to take a risk.

Well, those are my seven quotes that have inspired me, challenged me, and encouraged me. Maybe they'll do the same for you.

I'd love to hear what quotes you would include in your list. Leave a comment below with them. Or a link to you your post of them on your blog.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

What I Think About Valentine's Day (If It Really Matters)

I've never been someone to write about singleness or relationships, but with a week until the last Valentine's Day before I turn 30, I've been thinking about singleness a lot. (And that has resulted in what it becoming a series on singleness... don't worry, if you're getting sick of these this is the last one for a while.)

Valentine's Day . . .

I've had 28 of them so far. Only had a date for one of them. And unless something changes in a very short time, the one coming up will be spent without a date.

Some years, I've dreaded Valentine's Days. Some years, the day has passed without me thinking too much about it. I don't know if there's ever been a year I've looked forward to it.

In Bible college, those of us who were without a significant other on Valentine's Day had another name for the day . . . Single's Awareness Day. It was the one day of the year where, as you walked around campus, it was glaringly obvious who was single and who was not. Both the dorm and the library would be quieter than usual that night as anyone in a relationship was doing something for a date that night.

Some years, I've gotten together with other single girls for dinner, chocolate, games, etc. Something to do to not spend the evening at home alone. Those years have often been fun, but they've never completely removed the sting of not having someone special on that day.

My Mom always does her best to make that day a little special. Whether it's a card, or chocolate, or both. I've always appreciated that.

So, as I sit here and reflect on 28, soon to be 29, Valentine's Days in my life, all but one spent without a date, I wonder what it would be like not to be single on this day. Somehow I think Valentine's Day would be different than it was with my high school crush. And I find myself wondering if I'll ever know.

But I also find comfort in knowing that even if one day I do have someone to celebrate Valentine's Day with, it doesn't have to be the most important of all days. We make a big deal out this day because the calendar and the gift shops tell us to. But if it's not part of something everyday, I wonder if the money spent, the flowers, cards, and chocolates given, and the dinners out really have true meaning. It's easy for one day, but true love goes the distance.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Singles in the Church

My last post was being single and what helps and what doesn't help from a relationship standpoint. Today, I want to get more specific in talking about what it's like to be single in the church.

It's one of those things were we do some things well and some things not very well when it comes to how we treat singles in our churches. I say "we" because I and other singles are as much a part of the church as those who are married.

As a single adult, I would be lying if I said it wasn't hard to go to church on the weekend or to other church things sometimes. I don't always look forward to sitting by myself. And, unless someone I already know is there, that is usually the reality - at least until one of my friends shows up, or maybe for the whole time. Sometimes it would be nice to walk into a room knowing I have someone to sit with.

But, even in those moments, I'm glad to see families together. In a society where family has taken a beating, it's a good thing to see families together and to be in a place that values families and wants them to thrive.

As we value families, we must also not forget the singles in our midst. Singles can be any age, so they can't all be lumped together into one ministry. And we must never completely segregate everything by marital status. As single people, we need friends who are married too, not just other singles.

Our worlds are too small if we only spend time with people just like us - whether we're married or single.

When I, as a single person, volunteer for things at church, I may choose to take on more than someone with a spouse and kids at home would. That's because I have the time. There's no one at home waiting for me to get home that day.

But just because I have more time, doesn't mean I'll say yes to anything and everything I'm asked to  do. There are some things I just don't feel like I should be doing. I need some time for other things too. And I still have extended family that gets some of my time.

It's all about finding the balance that works. For a single person that will be different than for a married person. But it's still about balance and what God calls us and gifts us to do.

I know Scripture says a lot about the importance and value of marriage. But that doesn't mean single people have less value in the family of God. And it doesn't mean single people look at married people with jealousy because married people have something the single people want.

The reality is, Scripture is full of examples of people God used to build His church - both single people and married people. Because in God's eyes, it's not marital status  that defines us. In God's eyes we're all His children and we're al forgiven because of Jesus' work on the cross.

It we really are the family of God, living out the Gospel message and being the agents of redemption God calls us to be, then our marital status shouldn't be the focus. Tranformed lives and learning to live the way Jesus tells us too as the family of God should be.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Yes, I'm Single

I've struggled with whether to write this for a while. I've wrestled with my own thoughts and feelings about this topic. And I wasn't sure I wanted to put this out there for all the world to see. What I'm going to say might upset you. It might even offend you.

I hope that doesn't happen. But I'm not apologizing if it does, because I think things like this need to be said sometimes. No matter what, I hope you'll read this all the way through and give what I have to say some thought. And that you'll share your thoughts on this all with me.

One last disclaimer before I go ahead: I'm not saying everyone does this. I'm not even saying most of them do. But this is something that come up in my life and in conversations on a number of occasions.

So, here goes...

My singleness is not a problem to be fixed.
And it doesn't make me strange or weird.
Just like you, I want to belong. I want to be included.
I want to be missed when I'm not there. And I want to know you well enough to miss you when you're not there.

I'm quite aware that I'm still single and that I'll be 30 years old in three months. The life I have is good, but it's not exactly what I expected it would be. Growing up, I thought I would be married by now. I thought I would have kids by now. But I don't and I don't need you to point it out every time you see me.

Honestly, if I want your advice on something I could do differently, I'll ask. Don't give it to me if I haven't asked. Chances are I've already tried what you have to say I should or shouldn't do.

The story about how your best friend's cousin's daughter found her husband . . . I don't want to hear it. I don't know her. I'm sure it's a great story, but that doesn't mean I should do the same things. Or that they'll guarantee I get married too.

Yes, I would like to get married one day. And I'm doing what I can to meet guys I could potentially marry. Bu there is only so much I can do, because it requires another person.

Those times when I tell you that sometimes I hate going home to an empty house after work everyday, aren't the times for you to tell me about how lucky I am. That I'm lucky I don't have a husband or kids needing my attention and leaving messes everywhere. In those moments when I don't want to go home to an empty house, I'd give anything for that.

And, no matter what, don't quote the verse in Isaiah that says "your husband is your Maker." What does that mean anyway?

Besides, sometime the physical presence of another person is what we need, or what we want. I know God is always with me, but sometimes in my human-ness, I want more. I want a person.

Okay, I hope you're still reading and I haven't completely offended you. I've told you what I don't want, but if I just leave it there, it's not really a helpful conversation. But there are simple things you and I can both do to help each other.

The first thing we both need to be doing is listening to each other without trying to solve problems the other person hasn't asked us to help solve. I will listen to you talk about the good times and the hard times in your life. I ask that you do the same for me. Sometimes we just need to tell someone what's going on in our lives and how we feel. We just need to know someone cares enough to listen. And sometimes after we know the other person has listened, then we might ask for their help.

Second, invite me to group things, even if I'll be the only single person there. If it's a group of people, I'm not going to feel out of place. I'm not asking you to give up time with your spouse or with other couples. I'm asking that you don't forget me every time you plan something.

Your kids won't keep me away either. I get that they are an important part of your life. Heck, I'll even play with your kids sometimes. Just because I don't have kids of my own, doesn't mean I'm uncomfortable around them.

You don't have to do all the inviting. I'll invite you to things too. And I'll be flexible so it works with your spouse and your kids and what is going in the life of your family.

Finally, if you know a single guy you think I should get to know, ask me if I'd be willing to meet him. Sometimes I will be. Sometimes I won't. I'll be honest when you ask. But, generally, the way I see it, it never hurts to allow a friend to help if they can. As long as this is coming out of a friendship with you and it's not the only thing we ever talk about, I'll probably appreciate it.

The honest truth if while my life looks very different from yours from the outside, it's not that different when you get past the externals. I'm a Christian learning to follow God better everyday. I have struggles, fears, and insecurities. I have joy and triumphs. The same as you do. They may not be exactly the same as yours, but we all have them. And we can learn from each other anyways.

Well, that's it. If you've made it to the end of this, I want to thank you for sticking with it. I hope that you aren't offended by anything I wrote. But I also hope you were left with something to think about - whether married or single.

I'd love the hear your thoughts on this.