Category Archives: Christianity

A Big Slice of Humble Pie

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Last week I gave a lesson on the need for both humility and self-esteem. The result for me (that didn’t really hit me until yesterday,) was a big slice of humble pie, and a little voice inside my head with the question: “did you even hear yourself?”

It was not a good presentation (and I am not, NOT, NOT fishing for reassurance, so please don’t go there.) I stumbled over my words. I tanked on trying to explain “asceticism” and tie it in to the lesson. My power point wasn’t readable. I relied too much on my notes. I was boring. (Wow, there are a lot of “I’s” and “my’s” in that paragraph…my first hint that something is wrong!)

So, I’ve been fretting over it ever since. There are a lot of other frets that took up valuable brain space (and heart space) last week, too. Like my fret about my continuing fight against fat, and how I looked, and how my clothes fit (or didn’t), and hating my glasses and how I have to forever take them off and put them back on and how they make my eyes look like I’m ogling the person I’m talking to…and how my scaly heels needed a good pedicure (just keepin’ it real, y’all!) And then, did I hurt someone with my words or opinions given in the afternoon forum that same day? Did I mention that the reason I have these opinions is because I’ve made these mistakes and learned from them? Does someone think I’m a hypocrite? (Wow, do preachers wonder these things every week??) Will someone think less of me if I admit these insecurities? Will someone think I’m somehow disingenuous if I write about my own lack of confidence and humility – and then post it publicly? Fret, fret, fret.

Wow, lots more of those “I’s” and “me’s” and “my’s”.

Back to the lesson last week. What I was trying to relay to the audience was that our confidence and self-esteem shouldn’t come from how we think others perceive us…or from things or looks or smarts or from the admiring masses. Our humility shouldn’t be “pretend” – all the while enjoying the attention that our “modesty” attracts.

The light bulb came on yesterday morning. I already knew that the more I focused on me, myself, and I, the more Satan could distract me from my task at hand. But what really hit me yesterday is how he REALLY uses it against me when the me, myself, and I isn’t a matter of pride at all, but rather disappointment with me, myself, and I. My self-esteem had taken a hit because I was not pleased with how I might have been perceived or misunderstood. Basically, I was simply preoccupied with myself.

In last week’s lesson, I tried to convey that Godly humility looked like the heart of a servant, like Jesus. That humility says “I came not to be served” (or, I suppose, “liked”, or “admired”, or “fawned over”) “but to serve” (Matthew 20:28).  Humility is doing “nothing from selfish ambition or conceit” but counting “others more significant than yourselves,” (Philippians 2:3-4). Hard for me to do, when I’m only focused on myself.

I hoped to show that regardless of how we look or sound to the world around us, God sees our heart (1 Samuel 16:7). The Maker of the universe knows me better than I know myself, and the precious blood of His only Son redeemed me. I am a daughter of the King (Romans 8)! That, truly, is the only confidence I need. Feeling like you’ve presented something with clarity is a good thing. Complimentary, supportive friends are nice, too! But I think they’re the “gravy” in life. My confidence and self-worth has to come from God.

“Physician, heal yourself” came to mind yesterday morning while cleaning the kitchen and thinking of the things I wished I’d said and done differently last week. How sadly ironic. Did I even listen to my own words? I know I believed them. But did I apply them to MYSELF last week?  Evidently not.

I’m trying, now!

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So Far As It Depends On You

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Tailgaters annoy me. Not the barbecuing-before-the-big-game tailgaters, but the ones who zoom up on my tail going 65 in a 50, because their business is so much more important than my business.
tailgater Then, because I have tendencies that I am most definitely not proud of, I am tempted to slow down, which becomes even more of a temptation when someone is driving the speed limit next to me and the tailgater can’t get around either of us. (Evil grin.) But then I think about Romans 12:18:

“If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”

Practically speaking, this means I am not going to purposely antagonize the crazy-eyed guy behind me in the big 4-wheel drive pickup with the Pit Bull and the gun rack. Not because I’m afraid of him, but because I’m a Christian. (And – maybe a little because I’m afraid of him.) (Incidentally, I don’t have anything against big pickups and Pit Bulls and guns, so long as they are all controlled by sensible people.)

Seriously, though. In the middle of a chapter chock full of exhortation to actually do the opposite of what we feel like doing to people who aren’t nice to us – Paul makes sure we know that we bear responsibility to maintain peace.

This particular chapter has been on my mind a lot lately after recently finishing a study on Romans. “Live peaceably.” It’s easy to say, and I’ll be the first to admit that it isn’t so easy to practice.

It means not speaking unkindly to the waiter who is slow, gets my order wrong, and forgets to refill my tea glass.

It means not taking out my frustration on the innocent sales clerk who tells me that the sweater I want is not, in fact, on sale – even though I found it on the clearance rack.

It means that I will assume that “I like your hair better when it’s long” really means “I like your hair better when it’s long” instead of “your new short haircut makes you look like a poodle.”

It means that I will extend grace to my husband when six pairs of dirty socks pile up next to his side of the bed.

It means that I will not use Facebook, or Twitter (or any of the other social media outlets that four-year-old children understand better than I) to bait, belittle, provoke, or hurt the reputation of any soul.

“If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”

What else does it mean?

• I will choose to stomp out irritation before it blooms into anger.
• I will respond with patience to someone who should know better.
• I will treat those with whom I disagree (religiously or otherwise) with dignity, respect and kindness.
• I will not seek revenge against someone who has hurt me.
• I will include and welcome newcomers and outcasts into my circle of friends.
• I will pray for and be kind to someone who has hurt my child.
• I will view an adversary as someone loved and treasured by God.
• I will remember the positives about an individual, and forget the negative in them.
• I will expend time and energy seeking to lighten the load and enrich the lives of others around me.
• I will respect those with different dietary habits than mine.
• It means that when I am young, I will respect my elders, and when I am older, I will value those who are younger.
• I will hold myself to the same standards I expect from others.
• I will not act or think haughtily toward anyone.
• I will hurry to make things right after a disagreement, and be the first to forgive, eager to make things right.
• I will recognize my own weaknesses.
• I will overflow with a spirit of humility and fight against self-promotion and self-importance.
• I will not pout when my opinions and ideas aren’t followed.
• I will look for and focus on the endearing qualities of an individual whose personality might not knit together with mine.

I’m sure you can think of many more examples, and I would love to hear them.

“If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”

Even the crazy-eyed, truck driving tailgater.

Caleb

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Twenty some-odd years ago, John and I met an energetic, mischievous, fun-loving, God-fearing, smiling young man named Clay, and a beautiful, serene, generous, kind and gentle young woman named Joanna. In 1998, the Lord merged those two personalities and Caleb was born, followed by Faith, Jenna, and Audrey.

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Our lives have crossed and intersected and merged now and again and we occasionally were blessed to hug their necks and laugh about things that happened when they were in college (like the fact that Clay taught Jordan and Jacob – when they were toddlers – to say “hey, chicky baby” when girls walked by.) We loved seeing their growing family.

Last summer we spent a weekend with them and their church family at a retreat in New Mexico. On our way there, we met them for a bite to eat and from the moment he bounced over to us, it was evident that Caleb was someone special. He peppered me with questions about Micah and talked about basketball.  He affectionately rubbed his baby sister’s head and smiled all the way through eating his sandwich. I teased him all weekend as he suddenly grew tongue-tied around some pretty girls. I noticed how he was comfortable with all ages and consistently wore a smile. He made such an impression on me!

Last Saturday, August 24, 2013, Caleb left Clay and Joanna, and went home to his Heavenly Father.

Several times today I’ve watched the slide show from his memorial service and as his baby pictures flashed by, I wondered – what if Clay and Joanna had known that they would only have him for fifteen short years? As a parent, I can’t imagine the dread that would create; the panic to hold on tightly as the time approached.

Caleb’s death and Clay and Joanna’s pain have made me think even more about the kind of love that God has for us. Losing a child is every parent’s worst nightmare and we would do anything – give anything – to prevent it from happening. But then I remember that oft-repeated verse that I might not really pay enough attention to, because He knew all along what would happen to His Son – “For God so loved the world that He gave his only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”

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I’m thankful for precious Caleb’s life. I’m thankful for my Father’s sacrificial love. And I’m thankful that one sweet day there will be a joyful reunion.

 

 

“Help Me To Be”

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We are blessed to have sweet Nancy as a member of the church here in Dripping Springs. She is from Fort Worth, and, as a matter of fact, she and my mother knew each other as children, because Nancy’s mother and my Grandma were friends. Nancy has been blind since birth, and she has some other impairments as well. Her father and mother have both passed from this life.  Nancy now lives at Hill Country Care, the same healthcare facility where Grandma (who will be 102 on August 3) resides.

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Nancy is not bitter in the least about her condition. If you ask her how she’s doing, without fail she will reply “Hap-PY!” with decisive emphasis. She loves Lawrence Welk, and she LOVES to sing. She sings her heart out. Bless her heart (and you know, when a southern girl says “bless her heart”, something uncomplimentary might follow, but I mean this sincerely) she sings with gusto – the kind of gusto that makes small children turn around and stare.

We sat in front of Nancy yesterday, and as we sang the song “Purer in Heart” I couldn’t help thinking to myself that there might not have been a purer heart than hers in that assembly. As she warbled her way through the song, with some squeaks that might not have been pleasing to human ears – I thought that God’s heavenly ears must have been pleased with her pure, heartfelt worship.

In fact, there are probably other aspects of worship that aren’t pleasing to us that are pleasing to God. Looking back to Old Testament worship – sacrifice in particular, I wonder what it was like to be present as animals were slaughtered. It’s hard to imagine a pleasant scene – but numerous times it is described as a “sweet savour” or a “pleasing aroma” to God (Exodus 29:18,  Leviticus 1:17, 8:21 and many other places). I’m thankful it’s different today.

But who am I to have a different opinion than God? My opinion is unimportant. He is seeking people who will worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:23-24). Nancy’s voice may not win any singing competitions, but she is not competing for any reward except for God’s favor. Shouldn’t that be the goal of every Christian?

One of Nancy’s favorite songs is “Amazing Grace”.  “I once was lost, but now am found – was blind, but now, I see.” I wonder if perhaps Nancy doesn’t see better than any of us.

Camp

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When Micah was little bitty, he and I stayed home while John took Jordan and Jake with him to camp. Not being much of the outdoorsy, adventurous type, I preferred to stay in the relatively bug-free air-conditioned comfort of home. I never quite “got” why John and the big boys seemed to be so changed – on a higher plane, if you will – when they returned home.  But I get it now.

By the time Micah was about five years old, John and the big boys were begging us to come along and make it a family experience. My choices seemed to be (1) have another baby in order to stay home from camp, or (2) go to camp. Since the first option seemed a bit extreme, I decided to bite the bullet and spend a week at Camp Hensel.

Hensel, for those of you who haven’t experienced it, is not quite a five-star resort. It isn’t the Marriott. It’s not the Holiday Inn Express. It’s not even Motel 6. It’s more along the lines of the Bates Motel. Let’s just say Hensel has been around for a long time – so long, in fact, that I think some of the bugs stuck between the windows and rusty screens of Cabin 2 have been there since before I went as a child in the 70’s. The shower house for the boys is something straight out of the House of Torment: rusty nails, scary spiders and all. The Road House has a raccoon family in residence.  So I am firmly convinced, every year that our group returns relatively unscathed from a week at Hensel, that God has kept His protective hand over us.

Yes, there is heat. Oppressive, humid, sweaty heat. And bugs. And dirt – lots of dirt.  Shower shoes are a must. People tend to smell a little musty during their week at Hensel. We may occasionally get a teensy bit irritable. And maybe it’s because we only get about four hours of sleep each night.

BUT! There are the absolute best people in the world. A week spent away from the cares of the world and focusing on what is truly important. Lessons rich from the word of God, from men who have a gift for imparting His message. Meals eaten side by side with some of our best friends in the world. God’s beautiful creation evident all around us.

There are little boys (most likely wearing the same clothes for three days straight) whose ratty bed-head is absolutely adorable . Little girls who run around hand in hand, like these two:

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There is time to bond with young men and women – away from their telephones and iPads and any other electronic device. I  find it fascinating that they often come into the cabin on Sunday afternoon with a reserved demeanor (and sometimes downright distrust,) but by the end of the week they run to you with open arms, because the powerful word of God has entered into their hearts, and because we have been given the opportunity to show them that we truly care about them. These were most of mine and Denise’s girls this week – how I love each of these young women!

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There are times to pray, alone and together. Times to catch a glimpse into the sweet relationships between mothers and daughters; fathers and sons. Time to reflect on how blessed we are to be able to minister to others and for them to minister to us.

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And the singing! Can you imagine nearly 250 (dirty, sweaty) people crowded into a medium sized (un-air-conditioned) dining hall, windows and doors closed (because the acoustics are better) and singing for an hour? Andy Baker always encourages and reminds us to concentrate on the words of the songs and remember to Whom we are singing. This must be what heaven sounds like.

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The most beautiful sight was to see the compassion and care from so many when an individual had the courage to step forward and ask for prayers. They were immediately surrounded by so many – and not just their closest friends, but people they may not have known so well. What an amazing group of tender-hearted young people we spent the week with! I saw God in their compassionate, sympathetic tears.

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If you haven’t been, it’s hard to explain, and I hope someday you’ll know. I know we aren’t alone with our experience at Hensel – other camps provide the same experiences as well. I only wish that everyone could spend a week away, digging deep into God’s truths and retreating from the world.

Some of my favorite quotes from the week:

“When God uses you as His instrument, it doesn’t matter if you’re outnumbered.” Todd Crayton

“The Bible never gives us something to subtract from our lives without giving us something to add in its place.” Andy Baker

“If you’re against God, who can be FOR you?…Going to heaven is not easy, y’all, but going to heaven is worth it.” Mike Bonner

After a young lady had responded, Wayne Jones said that “her tears are a reflection of her heart.” What a beautiful statement.

When we arrived at Hensel, a dead feral hog was discovered in a stand of trees near the creek. Each time we walked to the creek for a baptism, the odor was overpowering. But John pointed out, in yet another teachable moment, that it was the “smell of death – and we don’t bury living people. In baptism, we die to our sins, are buried, and raised to walk in newness of life.” 2013-06-12 002 2013-06-12 011

I overheard Michaela Bonner comforting a fellow camper (whose grandmother is near death,) saying “You’ll see her again someday, and you’ll be even happier than you are now!”

We laughed a lot, too. A LOT.  Gretchen said “If you tried to stop some girls from talking, their heads would explode!” There are too many funny things that our girls said this week for me to record – and anyway, they’re just between us girls. 🙂

Coming home from camp is so bittersweet. I can’t wait to sleep in my own bed. Not have to stand in the sun with 250 people before I eat. Not have to wait in a line of 100 people to eat lunch. Sit with my elbows on the table. Have the bathroom to myself.

But I’m going to miss my brothers and sisters. Back to living in the world – a world that needs Christian light. And hopefully we have all better prepared ourselves, and those with whom we spent the week, to reflect the light of Jesus to a lost and dying world. I’m praying for those young people who have to face reality again. I’m praying that they’ll remember the strength and encouragement they received at camp when they’re faced with inevitable temptation.

I’m glad my boys all encouraged me to experience camp with them. It’s been life changing. I hope you’ll someday have your life changed, as well.

Do Nouns Make You Happier Than Verbs?

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I just got an email from eBay that said “Carla: still looking for a handbag?”

Hmmm. Is someone watching me? I’ll admit, I do have this tiny problem with handbags: I like them. And cute dishes, and Tervis tumblers and Yellow Box flip flops. And I like it when John takes me out to dinner. I don’t really like being the center of attention, but I don’t mind – on a small scale – when it’s “all about me!”

But – the world doesn’t revolve around me.

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Shocking, isn’t it? Here’s more: it doesn’t revolve around you, either.

We all want to be happy. I want to be happy. You want to be happy. Our kids want to be happy. We want to make them happy. “Happy, happy, happy!” (Thanks, Phil.)

Here’s the problem, though. Where does our happiness come from? Nouns, or verbs?

Recently, while preparing a lesson about ways to influence and teach teenage girls, I was thinking about how we tend to use NOUNS (people, places, and things) to make our girls (and GUYS, for that matter) happy. Did someone hurt your feelings? Let’s go buy you a new pair of shoes. Bad day at school? Let’s go to the movies. Your friend got a new purse? We’ll get you a more expensive one. This will make you feel better, baby.

It’s sort of like the drain in the bathtub with no stopper…we keep trying to fill it up. But something else will always come up…a new want, another bad day, and the THINGS just keep pouring down the drain.

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But what if we used VERBS to make our kids happy? What if we used verbs to make US happy? Did someone hurt your feelings? Let’s stop right here and ask God to soften their heart and also to open our eyes to our own insensitivities. Bad day at school? Let’s go by and see how we can help this hurting family in need. Your friend got a new purse? Let’s go through your closet and see what we can share with someone who REALLY needs it.

Believe me, I’m talking to Carla, too.

This isn’t anything new. God said it centuries ago.

“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Philippians 2:1-4

“The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” Matthew 23:11-12

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for RIGHTEOUSNESS, for they shall be satisfied…let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:6, 16 (emphasis mine)

Nouns make us happy, but it’s a temporary happy. We are always going to want another new pair of shoes. But verbs – now THOSE will really make a difference. Not only in my life, but in the lives of those I am helping! Our kids might balk at first. They might drag their feet (or we might have to drag their feet for them…) 😉 but given plenty of opportunities, they (and we!) will see the lasting happiness that comes from being a servant of God.

Then, instead of a draining bathtub, we can be like those beautiful infinity pools we see in magazines…the kind of pool that spills over and shares beauty and flows out with God’s living water. Who wouldn’t want to be there?

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I Want to See God

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My friends  Leslie and Karen lost their beloved mother-in-law, Sandra, on Thursday morning.  Mark and Russell lost their mom. Drew, Taylor, Lily and Sam lost their Grandma.  I say “lost” like she can’t be found, but we know where she is. She lost her battle with hateful cancer but she has won the victory in Jesus Christ.

Last night we sat in the quiet corner of a restaurant with Leslie and Russell. I snuggled baby Sam while Lily sat on her mama’s lap and played trains with the sugar packets.

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Leslie and I talked about the void that Sandra filled in her life. Love is so simple and yet so complicated, and Leslie’s voice broke as she tried to express her feelings.

Lily heard the tears in her mama’s voice and turned around. She placed her hands on Leslie’s face and said tearfully, “I want Grandma.”

Through her own tears, Leslie said “I do too, but Grandma’s gone home to be with God.”

Lily Grace, in her little three-year-old voice: “I want to see God.”

I do, too. Don’t you?

If you don’t know how, here’s a great place to start:

http://searchingfortruth.org

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