Puny Gods and the end of my American Dream.

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What do you worship? Because, really, we all worship something. Whether it is the God of the universe, or the puny gods of our own creating, we all bow down in one way or another and declare something righteous. You may not know exactly what, or who your gods are, but it isn’t difficult to locate them. Take a look at your day to day choices and you might see a pattern emerge, one that points directly to what is truly important to you, to what and whom you give honor.

For me, I spend as much time as possible in denial. It’s only when I’m forced that I see beyond my immediate needs and decisions to the impact and ripples they create in my life and the lives of those closest to me. We all make choices and those choices have repercussions, not only for us, but for those in our world. We might want to pretend that our decisions only affect ourselves, but that’s rarely the truth.

I spent some time in Dallas last week. It’s a beautiful town, but a tad over-dressed and opulent for me. I am a hopelessly middle-class girl. I wasn’t born into wealth and quite frankly, I’m okay with that. In fact, at times, I even want to shun my middle class life. You see, I found out something a few years ago; middle-class is broken—it’s a lie. The truth is, it doesn’t even exist.

To begin with, the entire premise is misleading. By very definition, middle implies something midway–in the center of—located equally between two poles. But that’s the first problem, because we here in America think we hold both the poles. We don’t. There’s this whole big world out there beyond our borders and guess what? They matter. Although, by the way we live and breathe and perceive our existence you wouldn’t know it.

See, we are the Target generation. And as a so-called middle class girl, Target is like crack to me. No, really. I think I might actually salivate like Pavlov’s dog just thinking about it. My heart races, I get all kinds of weak. You know, there’s just so much to see, so much to buy! Their selection changes so rapidly and when they do clearance? Baby, they do clearance!

Target, is the Wal-mart of the middle class. Its everyday prices are like Anthropologies best sales. If you want to mimic Better Homes and Gardens, Country Living, or Architectural Digest even—on a modest salary—Target can hook you up.

But, is that really middle class? And in the middle of what, exactly? Because if I can buy a swanky throw pillow for $24.99, and yet that same amount would feed a family of four in Kenya for a few months, I think middle is a bit off the mark…

So who shops at Target, and how close to the middle of anything are they really living? Is it those who make $50K a year—the U.S. median income? Because, according to a 2013 Gallup poll, per-capita incomes in the top 10 wealthiest populations are more than 50 times those in the 10 poorest populations. And yes, the U.S. is in the top ten wealthiest populations in the world, even if we refuse to acknowledge our place as such. While we pretend we are barely getting by, the rest of the world lives with a totally different perception, and reality. We look on, refusing to see both our wealth, and our power to live responsibly. (Pass me my Marc Jacobs bag so I can find my Visa card–there’s a sale on shoe’s at Nordstroms…)

“From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”                   Luke 12:48

I’m not blaming anyone here. I’m blaming everyone, including myself. And to be honest, I never gave it a real thought until I went to Africa in the summer of 2012. That trip changed me. It wrecked me for normal life, forever. There’s just something about seeing a child scavenge in a mound of trash that changes your perception of wealth, of life…of everything. Now, I know I can never go back to the sweet Target salvation I used to know.

I can’t, because it doesn’t exist for me any longer.

See, what I realized in Africa is that I need less—not more—to feel content; less stuff, less power; less acclaim. My heart needs more of something else to come alive. Starbucks does not fix everything. A fancy house does not a home make. In fact, a home—home in the true sense—where your heart is free and open and bare before God—is readily accessible even with no house. Even in the bush, on the red dirt of Africa, you can find home, true home, in hearts and community with no walls or roof, because our home is with God, in God, in service and communion with his people.

So for me, there is no middle class. The American dream is dead. And if the bulls-eye we’re shooting for is pointed at acquiring more useless stuff to pad our already over cushioned lives, we need better aim. I need better aim.

Let’s see if we can find find it together, maybe over a Grande Americano…

What’s your poison? What keep’s you stuck in your safe, normal, American Dream? How can I help you get out of your box and see the real world? Share with me in the comments–let’s do community here!

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When you don’t know why.

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  “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.”    

            1 CORINTHIANS 13:12

The last few weeks have seemed to close in on me like the walls of a shrinking room in a sci-fi movie. Schedules loom, days fly by, and the every-little-thing of normal life has become this monstrosity. My to-do list has spun out of control and chased after me snarling.

It’s been rough. To say the very least. And although I don’t always let these things get to me, lately I have. I’ve let them all pile up to some big mound of disappointment with some unknown thing. What, exactly, am I disappointed with? I don’t even know.

Is it my writing? My life? The weather? Is it my lack of desire to follow the schedule of Lent that’s been laid out so neatly by so many? Because it seems like it has, and I do think that’s a part of it. Something there about the “schedule” of Lent, the enforcement of a certain way of worshiping, that seems to scrape up against who I am.

I don’t despise a liturgical calendar. Truly, I don’t. We all need reminders to focus on God, times to make Him central. Somehow, though, I feel like they need to be more regular than just Easter and Christmas. Yet, I struggle with guilt here.

If I’m not on board with what’s being offered for this dinner am I missing out?

What if, what Gods speaking to me during this time is different than everyone else? Not theologically different, but relationally different? Is that okay?

I never mind being the odd man out. Okay, maybe I mind a little. But, it hasn’t stopped me from listening to the One who calls me over the many who chatter. Still. It is never easy to speak up and be the only voice.

My last post (and several before that) alluded to my yearnings—and the whispering of the Spirit—in the area of Speaking Freely about difficult things. And maybe that’s really where my disappointment lies. Because, I want this to be easy.  I want it clear cut. Simple. But the truth is, it’s anything but.

And maybe, I just need to do it and stop waiting for it to feel okay. Because, maybe it never will. Maybe, it will always be hard. It will always feel like ripping open my chest and letting you read my heart. I don’t know. But if I don’t try, I may never know and the never knowing is even worse.

So, here we go. Here’s a truth for today that I am choosing to speak.

I am discouraged.

It’s true. I have tried to pretend it wasn’t the case. And I won’t say I always feel this way, like every second of every 24 hours. But, it’s there none the less.  And many people will read this and immediately assume I’m the one to blame. I’m not walking closely enough with God. I’m in a season of disobedience. I’m back sliding.

Because, otherwise I’d have Joy, right? I’d be happy all the time and smiling through every trial. Because that’s what Christians do…isn’t it?

Or is it? Is it that we smile through every pain and every hardship or is it that we hide? Have we learned not to feel the pain of a fallen world any longer or are we keeping secrets?

I really don’t know. I don’t know what you do when—and if—you ever stop to think about the evil present in the world and our lives, but for me, I hurt.

I hurt that somewhere on this planet (and maybe in my own state…or city even) a child is being bought and sold like meat.

I hurt that over half the planet is starving and sick while we buy Coach purses and Ugg boots and a million other things to impress people we don’t even know with things they will never see.

And I hurt that The Church has become a closed door beaten in with a battering ram wielded by those who comprise it.

How did this happen? When—and how—did things get off track?

I don’t have an answer. But I am choosing to believe two things about this season, at least my own understanding of it. I am believing what it IS, and what it’s NOT.

From my experience, a season of disappointment is a chance to grow. We can often learn more from what we lack. Setbacks, falls, embarrassment, failings, and unfulfilled dreams give us one most important thing; a reference point—a place to begin.

So you didn’t get what you want? You don’t like the way things are going? Congratulations, you just learned half the answer. Even if you don’t know where you are, knowing where you aren’t is half the battle. You just found your starting line.

The realization that you aren’t getting what you want from a situation is actually a wonderful gift. Many, many people continue in failure and frustration for years, even lifetimes, before finding that line, if they ever do. If you have accepted, or at least acknowledged your problem, or any problem, you’ve just put yourself ahead of half the pack. Look up! Things are getting ready to change.

Pain is a wake-up call. If you hurt, you are still alive. So, while you’re still alive, and since you’re not in the grave just yet, let’s do something about that pain why don’t we? Let’s use it. That’s right. We are going to take that thing that’s causing you grief and let it be a catalyst for change in your life, in my life.

You know what? I hurt most deeply when I feel I’m wasting my God given talents and gifts. Namely, writing. I’ve said it before; Why I AM a writer! God gave me words and stories and I need to share them. Yet, I flail in my writing life for many reasons…excuses…and it wears me down. Every time I feel God inspires a post and I don’t write it, I feel discouraged. When He wakes me at 3 a.m. with a dream that gives insight into one of my stories and I choose to go back to sleep instead of getting up and hitting the keyboard, I feel depressed. But because I’ve just identified that as a source of my tension I am now able to fight against it. I have a new frame of reference from which to move forward.

I hate sex-trafficking. I actually hate it. HATE. IT. It makes me angry, literally. And I feel more angry at myself than anyone else when I fail to do anything about it. Because if I’m not part of the solution than I am just part of the problem. If I fail to talk about it, or pray about it, and help others understand why we need to work against it, I am really no worse than those committing it. The blood of the innocent is on my head.

So maybe, today, I will put that red X back on my hand so I remember to keep praying for those bound in slavery. And that sticker of the #enditmovement? Maybe I can actually have it made and put it on my car, and maybe sell some to raise funds for this cause that is so important to me, important to us as a society, and species.

I just found my starting line.

red x

So what is it for you? What’s eating you? What haunts your sleep? I think it’s time to find out what that thorn in your side is really there for. It’s there to move you. And it may only be for a season, or it may be a permanent fixture in your heart. I don’t know. Only God does. But wouldn’t you like to find out?

When you find out what it is, just remember what it’s not.

It’s not the end. Disappointment, disillusionment, and pain do not mean you are done. As crazy as it sounds, it’s not the end of the world. It doesn’t necessarily even mean you are doing something wrong. You could be, but this is a chance to reevaluate that. It’s an opportunity to look at things from a fresh set of eyes and see what’s missing.  It’s not as bleak as you imagine.

And God is NOT done with you yet.

He loves you. He’s in control. And He’s waiting for you to step forward and draw closer to Him through this.

Please speak freely with me in the comments about what is discouraging your heart. What disappointments are you harboring? This Lent, let’s work together to get past them.

Right here. Right now. Ash Wednesday.

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We are a dirty, filthy, wretched, broken—but beautiful—mess. It’s true. We live in fear and secrets, isolated in our brokenness and shame. At times, we try to stand only to find we have fallen back down again. It is a desperate existence we work hard to hide. We take great pains to cover up our failings and shortfalls, at times, extinguishing every bit of hope the Spirit is offering.

And while some of us (if not all of us, at one time or another) prefer the prisons we’ve fashioned, there exists also a desire to be open, to be unbound from our sin and shame. What we need most, is Permission to Speak Freely.

You won’t find it everywhere, but little by little, word by word, I think hearts are changing. In the beat-up and bruised place we call The Church, I see a glimmer of hope. The spark, though small, has the potential to spread like wild fire through a sea of dying hearts, dying lives, and a generation of dying faith.

So how do we kindle, instead of smother, what could be our Salvation?

I believe it’s with honesty; truth. By taking off our masks and letting the pieces of real fall where they may.

Oh, it may be ugly. And it will—most certainly—be hard. But at some point we have to decide if we want to continue to suffocate, or to take a fresh breath and breathe again, to live again. It’s been too long since we got to the heart of the matter, and the matter—or rather, what’s the matter—with our hearts. This denial has had us in a stranglehold for so long…

It’s fear. Plain and simple. Being real feels strange to us, it’s frightening. We are more comfortable stuck in our past regrets and failures than we are with any change, even for the better. But there is hope. There is, really. I promise. Although, it won’t come cheaply. It will cost you. I think if you’ll wager with me on this though, you’ll see it’s well worth the price required.

And today is a beginning. Today is a time for confession; truth. It’s a beginning of a fire that has the potential to burn down everything you were, are. It’s a chance for God to make Beauty from ashes in your life.

But that road to beauty is straight through death. There is no detour, no way around.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”       John 12:24

Unless—and until—we die to ourselves, we will never be fruitful. We will never live. We will never be able to reflect the glory of God who created us until we are able to leave behind those things that detour us, the sin that so easily entangles. We cannot run the race set before us in cement shoes. Those cinder-blocks that are keeping us mired will have to be broken.

So where do we find this freedom? This elusive tool to break our chains is what? Shall I dangle redemption in front of your thirsty soul and leave you parched? Or is there water somewhere to quench you? Is there Living water that will destroy your thirst forever? Is there…more?

Yes! YES! A thousand times YES! There is freedom! There is victory! There is Peace unending and Grace overflowing! And believe me it is for you, it is Him for you–His body broken and bruised for you, an offering for your offenses. Not a bandage but a cure, not distraction from the reality, but a healing, HELP. Help is on the way!

His Extravagant Love Pouring out on your soul. HELP!

Hurt Extinguished & Lives Purified—HELP!

His Eternal Light & Purpose. HELP!

It’s here and it’s real. Real with a capitol “R” REAL. Taste it, smell it, hear it, Feel it REAL. It’s like breaking through the Matrix and finding yourself Real. Climbing out of your tomb and seeing sunlight Real. It is open your eyes and smell the coffee Real. Real love, a Real life, a Real savior.

Freedom. Forgiveness. It’s real; HE IS REAL. Christ and Him raised. Knowing the Truth of all time—knowing Him—is your ticket to real; Real Freedom.

No matter what chains Tuesday held you in, today is new. Today is Wednesday. Today is the beginning of a walk towards Him. Today is Freedom. Speak the words. Right. Now.

There isn’t a minute to waste. Today is the day. Today, you start over. Today you move from darkness into light because you step over the fear of confession. Today we—you and I—together—we take out all our dirty, filthy rags, our wretched sin and shame, our lies—the ones we’ve told and the ones we’ve believed—and we say enough!

ENOUGH!!!

We refuse to let them bind us any longer! This, this is a proclamation. This, is our declaration of war. This—right here, right now—THIS IS OUR BATTLE CRY!

WE WILL BE QUIET NO MORE!

We are tired of wearing rags when our Father has adorned us with robes of righteousness. We are tired of false motives when our Father has given us deeds of Purity, good deeds He planned for us before the beginning of time. A pseudo life isn’t enough for us anymore. We are awake.

We are the body of Christ. The Body. The Church. Us dead in our sins and transgressions and RAISED with Him in newness.

WE WILL NOT BE SILENT ANY LONGER!

Today.

Right Here.

Right now.

Choose you this day—this day—life or death—the blessing or the curse.

Choose Life. Choose Him. Awaken Church and walk forward. Speak freely~

We have a winner!

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Thanks to everyone who commented on last weeks FRIDAY FREEBIE post! I’m excited to announce that Shelly was the winner of Takedown by W.G. Griffiths! I will be contacting her this week to get an address to ship the book and chocolate her way. It’s a great story and one I know she will love.

As a first time give-away, FRIDAY FREEBIE seemed to be placed on the wrong day for involvement. After reviewing some stats, I have decided that I will change the rules and the drawing will be based on comments left on my weekly blog posts (however many I have that week). I will draw a lucky winner and post their name on Friday, rather than waiting until the following Monday. Or Tuesday, as this week has worked out with a snow day and no internet due to ice on our satellite dish. 🙂 (Thanks for grace!)

I’m really excited to continue this promotion though as I really want to share some great Christian Fiction with my readers. I have purchased close to thirty titles to start this promotion and will continue to add to that as I go along. There are so many great authors writing in the CBA (Christian Book Association) and I hope to share some of them with you so please check in weekly. Or better yet, sign up for my email posts and get them delivered right to your inbox so you never miss an opportunity to win!

I also plan to include some non-fiction titles from my favorite authors like Francis Chan, Jennie Allen, Emily Freeman, Donald Miller, Phillip Yancy, Margaret Feinberg, and Lisa Bevere, just to name a few. Stay tuned for reviews of current non-fiction titles as well!

Is there a particular author you enjoy? please share in the comments and let me know who’s on your TBR list, or what book you’d love to win on a FRIDAY FREEBIE post!!