Sunday, October 25, 2009

My thoughts on "Bo's Cafe"

I have mixed feelings about this book; that's not to say I didn't like it, but still I will share some thoughts that I hope someone will benefit from.

In some ways this book reminded me so much of "So You Don't Want to Go to Church Anymore" that I had to pinch myself and remind myself it was a different book. It was kind of like eating a casserole made with Thanksgiving leftovers - tasty, while at the same time you feel like you've eaten this before.

I also had to remind myself several times that this is a work of Fiction - like a movie, where things are so nicely resolved in an unnaturally short time span. I remember the movie "Facing the Giants" which had the same producer as "Firewall" and "Flywheel." I've heard several free-believing Christians say they didn't like these movies because they were canned and unrealistic. I'm actually having some similar feelings about some of the 'out of the box' Christian novels I've read, even though I do enjoy them to some degree.

I actually liked "Facing the Giants." I took it at face value as a nice feel-good escape from reality, a movie that was safe to watch with my kids. Not one that I would look to as encouragement for difficult situations in my own life really. My feelings about "Bo's Cafe" are rather similar.

For anyone who hasn't already read it, "Bo's Cafe" is the story of a man named Stephen who has some serious relational issues. He carries unresolved anger and a sense of underlying shame that frequently spill over onto his co-workers and his family. Things blow up when he gets into a huge fight with his wife; she kicks him out and he moves into a hotel.

By this time, a mysterious friend named Andy has shown up in his life, who knew Stephen's dad and has seen Stephen around for years, riding his company's yacht from the pier where Andy works. Andy takes him under his wing and introduces him to a group of his friends who meet each Thursday at - you guessed it, Bo's Cafe. Nine months later, things are amazingly better in Stephen's life. In a safe group of friends, he has found validation, healing, transformation, and wouldn't you know it, even a great new church. It just so happens that one of the folks at Bo's is a pastor and now Stephen and his family are enjoying a wonderful place that is good for them all.

I can't fault these guys for writing the book. They make their points well in the conversations that transpire between Stephen, Andy, and the rest of the gang. They do a good job of exposing the real problems in people's hearts and the various ways that we attempt to hide and compensate for them.

I just wish they hadn't wrapped things up all nice and neat in such a short time, and a relatively short book. Again, it seemed a lot like the nice feel-good but not-so-realistic Christian movies that I've heard complaints about. The reality is, things just don't happen this way for most people.

I know I'm not alone in saying that I've struggled for years in my search for real community. I've never in my life witnessed anyone acting as badly as Stephen and still had real friends stick by and help him through. My experience has been that people often run like rabbits when you unpack the rough, raw stuff. They can't or don't want to walk through it with you.

My experience has been that healing, and the people who really share community in my life, have been few and far between, and often just for a short season. The truth is, many people have to wait for a long, long time to find this type of community, and I believe some never do. I personally would have found Stephen's story more realistic (and more encouraging) with a few changes.

Some ideas are: Stephen's friendship with Andy is off again, on again. Andy disappears without explanation (often when Stephen needs him most) for months at a time. Maybe Andy drops away altogether and Stephen waits (perhaps for a couple of years) for someone else to come along who feels like sharing a friendship. Then, that friend gets tired of him and moves on. Maybe he tries the church where Carlos the pastor presides, only to have that situation fall apart because Stephen is 'too raw.' Meanwhile, the group at Bo's begins gossiping about what a pain in the neck Stephen is, and begins meeting on Fridays without telling him. Stephen suffers and is angry. Yet he struggles to hold onto the few pieces of the puzzle that he collects from each relationship. Slowly but surely he knows God is always with him, helping him walk the lonely road, sending him a friend here and there and then helping him walk alone again. Maybe by this time his wife has gotten fed up and left him, but he is rebuilding his relationship with his now-grown daughter and even finding a peaceable relationship with his now ex-wife.

I'd really like to see someone write a novel more along these lines. There are starkly realistic movies that still leave the viewer with hope and great thoughts to chew on; why not a novel? I'm thinking that part of the problem is the fact that publishing companies are now coming out with shorter, more condensed books to accommodate the average reader, who doesn't have the time or attention span to tread through a longer book. Hmm, this is the same lack of time and patience I normally see in society these days that make communities like the one in "Bo's Cafe" seem just too story-bookish to be anything but a nice idea.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Bound and Loosed

Here is another Bible verse that I've always wondered about: "I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." Mt. 18:18

I've seen this verse applied something like this: A person with a cold has the 'demon' of illness over them bound, and is expected to instantly be healed. Or, someone with financial trouble has a prayer binding the devourer prayed over them, with the expected result of money appearing to solve their problems. I'm not even sure what the 'loosed' part of the verse means.

The following verses, Mt. 18:19-20, is often simultaneously applied. "Again, I tell you that if the two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them."

I've seen this passage used as the 'vending machine God' approach. Supposedly if two or more people agree on any type of healing, problem solving, or blessing prayed a certain way, God just has to do it for them. They have this verse as 'proof.'

I've seen this approach fail often enough that I'm looking for better answers. I think the lack of real relationship between people and between God may be the key as to why we often see little in the way of results from our asking prayers. As if God is just someone to go to to fix your problems, not someone to walk with as a friend and Father.

What I've usually seen when Christians get together for the "two or three" prayers is to get some sort of quick fix for something, not just to hang out with each other and God out of sheer enjoyment and love. People want quick fixes because they don't necessitate the kind of relationship it takes to walk through things with each other on a more realistic, God-orchestrated timeline. That's my .02 worth.

So, what are your thoughts?

Sunday, September 13, 2009

A beautiful poem

Here is a beautiful poem written by bretttact, from the Free Believers site. In case you missed it on Aida's blog, here it is:

Heavenly Deception

There is so much Lord,
That is claimed in Your name,
For which we are ashamed.

Truth whispered from ear to ear;
Prized, hidden, cloaked,
Disguised from the world;
For we are one of the chosen few,
Initiates into the mysteries of time,
And the world laughs at us.

The works of man feel soo good-
Discipline, love, acceptance,
Unity in uniformity,
Common belief,
With no grief, no pain-
We’re anesthetized,
So we believe everyone else is insane
Living in vain,
While we're mindless -
Drugged out, washed out,
Unable to know our feelings & doubts,
Because we know Truth,
We're in the Family,
We're his 'children'
And must express the reality thereof;
Perfectly loyal, without fear, doubt,
Or equivocation.
Just claim emancipation,
As we sink deeper,
And deeper,
Thru mere participation,
Into mindless submission,
Performing the deception,
Ordained of god,
To advance the Work,
Amongst all these clods.
Heavenly Deception -
In the name of Truth.

We sit back,
Having it all pat,
Swallowing Satan's con:
Surface religion.
Tired of his standard brands,
We searched for truth, peace & love.
He offered us suitable facsimiles,
(Empty & hollow,
The only level deception survives at)
Just prior to our reality confrontation;
Plucked out of the rat race,
Placed into Satan's deceptive grace.

But then the moment comes,
The true moment of truth,
When we see
From the simple gut level values of our conscious,
That what the group speaks,
To its members
And the world,
Don't match.
The moment of confrontation -
When we find politics preempts truth.

"God, what do I do?
This group teaches the truth,
The fruits are good,
But God,
This is hypocrisy,
Help me Lord!
I want to believe!
I want to belong!
I want to serve You,
I want to do what is right!
Help me God,
Show me how to reconcile the two,
Maybe this…
Or maybe that…
But it doesn't fit!
It just doesn't fit.

Lord, why aren't you answering me?
Can You?
Maybe they don't reconcile -
But they've got to -
What they preach and write is so true -
I've put so much into this organization -
They can't be hypocrites,
Can they?…
Why not?
Why do they have to be different from other men?
Why can't money, power & fame
Get to them,
Making religion one big game?
Help me!!!
I don't want to think these thoughts,
I don't want to believe this to be true,
I want to believe in You,
I want to do Your work,
And they're doing it.
Help me!!
I can't figure this out!
Its driving me mad!
Help me!!!

Then more information came pouring in,
Confusing me more,
Friends desperately bombarding me with questions and facts;
The dilemma worsens;
I can't hold on,
But I must,
They are God's chosen,
The true church,
The only way to eternal life.

"I just want peace Lord,
I don't want anything new in my life;
I just want to sit home.
Leave me alone everyone,
I'm busy hanging on to the truth;
Please, don't change anything in my world,
I'm just barely in it now.
Oh Lord, I can't wait till the day I die'
Thoughtless death,
Sweet death,
Please come to me."

But it didn't.
Instead, You sent a message,
You reminded me of our first meeting,
How You convicted me to search for the Truth,
Showed me to judge honestly.

Thank You Lord,
For renewing my faith in You to see me through.
Be with me as I study YOUR Word,
Let me not take sides,
Nor make artificial standards to measure by,
But seek the Truth,
Which shall make me free;
If I am free
I am free totally.

There is so much Lord,
That's destroying people in these cults;
Use me to help them,
To help pluck them out of the fire somehow,
As You have plucked me,
Saved me from deception's misery.
Come Lord Jesus,
To save us all from ourselves.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Infamous quotes from the Bible

Hi everyone, due to numerous computer problems and time constraints I have not posted in a while. I am hoping that I can do better in the next few weeks! I have enjoyed reading others' blogs though.

I am going to post a few of what I believe are the most well-known 'proof texts' that have been misused over and over to put people into some sort of bondage and keep them there. I would like others' feedback on what you believe was really intended for us to glean from the text.

I will start with the infamous Hebrews 10:25. "Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another - and all the more as you see the Day approaching."

I'm wondering why some of these people had 'given up meeting together.' The early church sounded a lot more spiritually healthy overall than most of what I've seen in my day. Maybe I'm wrong? As I stated some time ago on my 'Going to church' blog, why would people NOT want to go to a meeting with other believers if they left feeling enouraged?

What are your thoughts?

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Women of Grace

This cartoon is only funny if you’re coming out on the other side of this life. Most of us as former trying-to-be-perfect home schoolers on the performance track know that this sort of thing can be a focal point causing many sleepless nights. I believe that anyone who has spent any amount of time as a home schooler knows what I’m talking about.

There is an extra burden in the performance-based world of institutional Christianity for us. We feel the burden of being absolutely responsible for all our children’s development, moral choices, and most of all, spiritual walk.We are inundated with “experts” who lord over us and make us feel incapable. Listen to us, they say. We have perfect grown children; we’ve been home schooling for at least 25 years. We’ve been in ministry for longer than that. We can quote tons of Scripture and we’ve written lots of material telling dummies like you how to interpret and apply it. If you buy our books and copy our methods, you too will gain interplanetary alignment and domestic bliss. If it doesn’t work, you have unconfessed sin in your life or you’re just not trying hard enough.

As former institutional-mindset people, we’ve all been subject to this general line of reason by those who are ‘authorities.’ It’s certainly burdensome enough to try to pull this off for your own salvation. It’s unbearable when you’re trying to do it for your children. The enemy really knows how to pull the strings. Those of us who love our children want to do the very best for them, but following the above theology locks us into a mindset that our best just isn’t good enough. One popular “teacher” in the conservative home school realm flatly states that “we as parents are responsible for our children’s souls.”

I am so glad that Father has led some of us out of that awful place. I am glad to have come to realize the foundational flaws in such theology. To follow the ‘experts’ advice instead of our own hearts is to treat them as Old Testament priests. But we are all priests in the Lord now. To see ourselves as responsible for our children’s souls is making us God. I am glad to finally see the meaning of “rest in the Lord.” He is my child’s ultimate parent – I am here to be a human guide and protector.

It is frightening how badly blinded many home schooling parents are by intimidating ‘experts’ who remind you of ‘how high the stakes are’ when reminding parents of their duty to flawless diligence at all times. As though our children’s immortal soul really is in our hands and not Father’s.

I am thrilled that Father has led me to talk with other women who were caught up in this world and now recovering. I especially want to thank Kim, Kirsten and Marie, who have been women of grace to me. Kim had her own tribute on but I want to give her another kudos here for being open and honest about the fact that she can’t fix everything perfect for her children, nor ensure a spotless outcome by formulas or her speckless performance as a parent. Instead, she emphasizes what is really important – a real heart connection with our children. This is something I believe all parents would do well to take to heart.

Marie is a very laid back and mellow person. She is now a former homeschool mom, but she spent some time running around the track. I didn’t get a chance to meet her children, but I imagine they are probably some of the happiest and most well nurtured children on the planet with such a mellow, gentle mom. I am sorry that she doesn’t live closer to me. But how glad I am that we have gotten to meet and hopefully will again!

Marie’s gentle ways and quiet thoughtfulness are a stark contrast to the in-your-face, “Train Up A Child” – flapping zealots that I spent way too much time around for years in home school circles. I can never in a million years imagine her shoving unsolicited advice on anyone, let alone another mom. I can never imagine her boasting on how much better behaved her children are.  I can’t imagine her judging another parent. Her wry sense of humor is thoughtful and encouraging.

Kirsten and I “met” online only a few weeks before we were able to meet in person in CA. Almost immediately we began trading “war stories” via email about our experiences in the home school world. It was amazing how similar our experiences were. We felt judged and looked down on by our own “friends” and “support groups.”  We were caught on the “never enough” performance track so often popular in conservative Christian mothering and marriage teachings. Yet it was cathartic to be able to laugh together at ourselves, our experiences, the things that used to bind us.

We have reassured each other that we aren’t perfect. We have shared the “gasp!” truth about many things. Neither of us keep a particularly tidy house, a super trim figure, or a rigid academic schedule. We both let our kids eat junk food, watch TV, and disobey without punishing them with ‘the rod.’ We don’t fit the submissive wife mold or the tireless mother model. We’re both capable of downing a pan of brownies by ourselves. I will admit to having done so on more than one occasion. Thank you ladies, for being human with me – for not only admitting that you’re human, but for laughing about it with me, and understanding my struggles. Thank you for being women of grace in my life.

(cartoon courtesy of Todd Wilson, Family Man Ministries)

Sunday, May 24, 2009


The desire for more abiding love and unity in the family of Christ is something that Father has put heavily on my heart lately. As I’ve previously discussed, there was always more talk in IC about how “we are a family” than I ever saw lived out. Some of the time I’ve spent in Christian circles reminds me of spending time with the in-laws when you don’t really care for each other: you’re a family – but in name only.

My journey-mate Free Spirit has written an impressive series of BLOGS called, “The Last Cow Standing.” I thought her title was great, and fits well especially here in the buckle of the Bible belt. Here in Texas, IC and “kin” rival each other for first place.

Sometimes, IC wins. There was a story that I heard in the context of a sermon about a man’s dying father who chose to attend his usual evening church service rather than his granddaughter’s birthday party, the last he would ever be able to attend in this lifetime.

Other times, “kin” wins. I wish I had a nickel for every time I’ve tried to invite someone over from the IC who couldn’t make it because of a family engagement. “Family” always came first. I heard an endless list of excuses from some former friends why they never had time for me. It was often some family get-together with relatives they didn’t even like or get along well with, but hey – family is family and they should rightfully eclipse everyone else at all times.

Either way, I wish I had a dime for every time I thought someone made a choice that showed how far out of whack their priorities were. It’s not necessarily about whether “church family” or “blood relatives” come first – it’s about making the heart choice that is reflective of abiding in Love. I think Free Spirit said it better than I can, so if you want a thorough run-down on this subject please check out her BLOGS. I’m just going to add a few more cents’ worth here.

There’s a reason we’re being awakened, called out of the catacombs of lifeless tradition. I am specifically speaking right now of the lack of understanding of just what family really means to Father. I’m not a doomsayer; I don’t try to pinpoint when Christ is coming back or spend my days combing the news for anything to line up with Biblical prophecy. However, I believe the time is coming. Just as the Bible says, the Church will be persecuted in the last days. It is commonly agreed that you depend on family during hard times. But I think we’ve barely tapped the significance of this idea in spiritual terms.

What are we going to do when the church is persecuted? When “building church” becomes illegal or even dangerous? When it becomes totally acceptable to be anything BUT a Christian? What if our own biological relatives turn on us and report us to the government for living our lives as we feel led? What if the people we called our “family” at church all run for the hills, forgetting our name as they do so? If we don’t know the difference between relatives, institutional church-based friendships, and true spiritual family – well, I think the day will come when we’re in real trouble. These things can be one and the same, but sometimes they’re not.

I don’t feel afraid of what may be coming as I write this; I’m not trying to scare anyone else either. Nor do I feel that Father is trying to scare or condemn anyone. Father may be concerned for us learning to live as family for practical, life-saving purposes that are to come only-He-knows-when. But even more importantly, I think is that he loves us so much that he wants us to deeply learn how to live as Christ said, “By this they will know that you are my disciples, that you love one another.”

Thursday, May 21, 2009


I found a couple of interesting articles that you can read HERE and HERE . It’s no wonder we as the American church have so much difficulty living in love. Touch is a very natural part of love. While these articles are good, I think it’s indicative of a very sad problem that this even needed to be said. Throughout most of history, such an article would probably have been met with a befuddled stare. It would have been like handing a shepherd a manual on why sheep bleat when they’re not fed. Only in a society as warped and far off the meter as ours is, would we even need to be told these things.

But indeed, warped the American culture has become. We’ve been so conditioned to live in fear of our affections being misconstrued. Someone might think we’re behaving provocatively. Someone might suspect us of being gay. Someone might even think we’re child molesters in disguise.

The second article reported the observed low amounts of touch between teens. Then it stated, “The low amounts of touching in these studies was surprising, given the high levels of physical intimacy reported among U.S. students.” Excuse me? DUH! Where is the surprise? Based on the overall report in this article (which I think is dead on) desperate teens in a “no touch” culture will do whatever it takes to get a hug, some contact with another, anything disguised as affection and love. And I don’t think this phenomenon is in any way limited to teens.

It is easy to see why there is so much sexual deviance in our culture. We all hear stories of teen promiscuity, same-sex partnerships, adultery. But even many who live in healthy and functional marriages and other family relationships may find ourselves worrying about sexual sin and thinking we’re just a step away from it. With the number of sexual images being bombarded at us on a daily basis in our culture, it’s no wonder we may tend to have “sex on the brain” whether we want to or not.

Even standing in line at Wal-Mart we’d have to close our eyes and try not to get run over by the cart behind us to keep from being bombarded with images. Each time we are greeted with obtrusive magazine covers that try to force-feed the public endless details of the sex scandals of celebrities and other sexually related things we didn’t really want to know. Yet we’re often cautious of giving a simple hug or squeeze on the shoulder for fear it will be misconstrued. How sick is that?

I couldn't find any conclusive scientific evidence to support the following statement, but I'm going to make it anyway: I think that nearly all sexually deviant relationships and desires are the product of an environment in which healthy expression of love and affection isn't allowed or available.

I wish all this didn’t affect the Church, but sometimes I think we are the worst affected of all. We’ve been so conditioned to think that Christianity is about Not Sinning, rather than Living in Love. Therefore, the plumb line has been making sure you don’t do anything that looks wrong, rather than making sure someone else feels loved.

I’m just sick of it. And I hope and pray that Father will continue to work to heal this sick cultural phenomenon that has infected his Bride. It was so wonderful at the Free Believers gathering in California to just hug my brothers and sisters. I’m looking forward to seeing lots more of this next year in Phoenix. Meanwhile, I’m going to try to keep my eyes open for anyone who needs a hug.

Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat. – Mother Teresa

Saturday, May 9, 2009

A Brother

I believe Father is working to heal an old wound, one of no nurturing male relationships in my family of origin. The sadness over the loss (or really lack is a better word) of relationship with my biological brother is something I thought I was just stuck with. It is such old news that I went years hardly thinking about it. Yet it had been bothering me a lot again for a few months. I’m noticing a pattern over my years as a disciple, that when something really begins to eat at me, Father often is actually working on healing that area.

The warnings about adultery and sexual sin in the church have had me treading carefully over the years. Supposedly we are all brothers and sisters in Christ, but IC protocol dictated that I wasn’t truly allowed to have relationship with any of the men. At some level this always saddened me. What good is a family if you can’t abide in love with the other members?

Well, I knew I was supposed to keep my distance in order to avoid sinful temptations. I didn’t find myself really drawn to many of the men anyway, some were cool and distant, others friendly enough but didn’t stand out as anything super special to me. I even thought some of them were Total Geeks. So I didn’t really see what the big deal was. But I certainly didn’t want to be guilty, so I dutifully followed the rules.

Occasionally though, I would talk with someone who I really liked. They might be especially good listeners, or have a great sense of humor, or an exceptionally gentle and compassionate personality. I would find myself wanting to talk to them more and get to know them more. I would even find myself looking forward to seeing them again.

Then of course, I thought "oh no. This must be adultery in the making. A tiny flame can be fanned into a wildfire, so snuff it out!" I would stuff down thoughts of wanting to talk more in depth with a man I liked, or of really liking him for this quality or that. Especially if he was anywhere near my age. I figured it might be OK if he was young enough to be my much-younger brother or old enough to be my grandpa, but anything else was Not Allowed.

Fortunately I have come to realize that most of the "adultery" paranoia is based on the "depraved sinner" mentality, rather than acknowledging we have new hearts. After all, many of Jesus’ friends who followed him around were women. I assume they were single, but Jesus obviously wasn’t "available," as that wasn’t what he’d come to earth for. I remember Mary finding Jesus alive and well on the third day, falling at his feet and weeping overjoyed. What love she must have had for him! Yet I don’t believe for a minute that they were having an affair or any sort of inappropriate relationship. They were simply and very powerfully loving each other as brother and sister.

Meeting Darin in person at the "Jake BBQ" was a real blessing. After a year and a half of reading his writings and listening to him online, I got to see added dimensions of how kind and insightful he is. I really enjoy his personality and sense of humor. And his compassion and understanding of people is truly special. He doted over his daughter, approached everyone with a friendly smile, patiently answered the questions of hungry people.

On the last evening, I listened as Darin talked with someone who was struggling and had a lot of questions. I hoped to have something helpful to say too, but there was little I could add to the conversation. So I just watched as Darin did as Jesus did -took the time to listen and get to the root of the problem.

As I sat listening to Darin, I recognized some of the feelings of affection and being drawn to a man that I had had in the past that I’d been told were wrong, sinful, deviant. The knee-jerk reaction of, "Oh, I'm sorry Lord, let me not sin" kicked in. In the past, the "oh no, I'm sinning" thoughts made it easy enough to change channels and think about something else.

This time, that didn't work. The feeling grew stronger and I know Father wanted it that way. Then, I felt Father was saying softly to me, "It’s all right. Let it out. It’s okay." So I let a wave of love for him just wash over me. I just love Darin, I told Father, and I felt Father smile as he said, I know you do. And it’s all right, as well you should. He is your brother.

I believe that brothers are just as important as fathers are. They can give their sisters friendship, protection, advice, the feeling that she is important and special and beautiful. Or, they can hurt hurt her and make her feel worthless. Is it really Father's plan to allow the loss and the wounds from our earthly family to remain a burden we have to carry all our days? Many Christian circles seem to hold a view of "you're a depraved sinner, so don't look at, talk to, or allow yourself to have significant feelings for anyone of the opposite sex unless you're married to them." Is this really reflective of Father's view of us? As Proverbs says, as a man thinks, so he is. I'm coming to see how we've shortchanged ourselves thinking this way.

If you haven’t already listened, the link to the latest FBN podcast is HERE. The subjects of sex, relationships, and the distinction between healthy and unhealthy ways to express our love for one another is a subject I hope is opened up for discussion more. Certainly there are appropriate boundaries, but Father is showing me what we are missing by 'drawing the lines' way too rigidly. We're missing out on relationships of love that could work to heal, help, and encourage each other.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Sunny Kim

Kim's usual signature is "Kim in sunny Sacramento." One day when she told us it was raining there, however, I reminded her that it's always sunny wherever she is.

The invitation to come out to California came as a wonderful and very unexpected thing. After quite some time of very little meaningful face-to-face interaction with anyone outside my immediate family, out of the clear blue Kim called and invited me out for a Free Believers weekend. I thought of Jesus who goes around collecting the straggling sheep. This time he put one on a plane to Sacramento. So, well armed with gum and a barf bag in case of airsickness, I found myself clinging to Father, and he to me, as the plane left the ground.

Kim had invited friends she’s met from all over. Some were single, some were older, some younger people her children knew. Some had significant life issues they were struggling with. Many of them were those that I know from experience the IC would dismiss. Young, old, black, white, affluent and financially struggling - everyone is the same to her. We’re all looking to make heart connections, and this is something Kim is great at. She doesn’t see people in terms of outward appearance - she looks at the heart.

This wonderful quality has also brought her close relationships with her grown daughters and son-in law, who spend time with her because they WANT to. Three of the four young adults live out of their home now but were there so much I had to stop and remember who technically lives there and who doesn’t.

Kim spent a lot of time in the kitchen preparing food to feed everyone, but she didn’t seem to see it as a chore or a bother at all. She chatted with everyone easily as she worked, totally unlike the harried "Martha" stereotype we’ve all heard of. As she worked, she talked of how she loves to have people over and sees it as a privilege to prepare for a house full. Her entire family reflected the attitude of hospitality, right down to her mom who made a huge pan of wonderful biscuits and gravy for breakfast one morning. (I was touched that she even called me on Kim’s cell phone on the way to the airport to say goodbye since I’d missed her earlier that morning!) This love for people, this attitude of outreach and hospitality, is a precious and sadly unusual commodity in today’s society.

Kim’s optomistic outlook is one of the first things I saw in her personality the first time we talked on the phone. Being a more melancholy sort myself, she is a great influence and balance for me. An incurable optomist is something that many of us need. Seeing the sunny side of life doesn’t necessarily come easily to me. Having her lens to see things through has been very good for me.

My family of origin tends to have a strong negative outlook. Then of course, there was the time spent in charismatic IC where there was supposedly a demon around every corner that we had to be all wound up in fear over. If we didn’t "break the curse in Jesus’ name," we were goners for sure.

Kim’s sunny outlook on life has been a breath of fresh air that I had long felt a need for. Something good IS going to happen. Father IS going to work any situation out for good. There IS reason to hope in spite of a bleak landscape. There IS something good waiting for you around the corner. We DO have control over some things that bother us and the things we don’t have control over WILL get better. Father IS faithful. This is a message I didn’t get for years and years of my life, and am so glad to be drinking in now. A stream in the desert, and sunshine through the clouds.

Father is working through people like Kim to show me that I have worth, that I am special and of great value to him, just the way he made me. The wilderness can be a hard place. It’s just been very, very lonely at times. Even in my active "church" days it seemed I was mostly just valued for being the dependable one who would man the nursery or pass out bulletins. Feeling overlooked as a person for so long can certainly leave its toll on a person’s self-esteem.

Part of me felt like there must be some mistake when I was remembered this way, to have an invitation for a whole weekend in sunny California, to meet not just one but three people whose online friendship I've enjoyed. The whole experience served to remind me that Father never does forget us. I have needed more sunshine, and am glad to have found it in Kim… in my spiritual family… in my Father.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


I had a great time in sunny Sacramento with my free-believing friends. I am trying to decide how to share what Father has shown me, and have some blogs "in the works" in my mind that I hope to post before long.

Meanwhile, I thought you all might enjoy this movie clip, especially those of you who know I'm a little flying-challenged (though fortunately, not nearly this much!)

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Painted Bunting

male Painted Bunting (pompilot)
This is a photo I found on the web of a bird we saw in our own front yard at the feeder just now. I have never seen one before. I love birds and feel Father has remembered me each time I see a pretty one.

Saturday, April 18, 2009


One of my favorite parts of fishing is catching minnows. This is especially fun in a creek with running water. For those of you who aren’t fishermen, a minnow jar is a wide-mouthed jar with a funnel-shaped cone that screws onto the lid and goes down into the jar. You set it against a rock so it won’t wash away, with the mouth of the jar turned downstream. Add a few wads of cheap Wonder bread, and watch the magic.

One minnow will see that interesting white blob and make a run for it. Next thing you know, he’s happily feasting! Wow! Wonder Bread! Much more exciting and yummy than microorganisms and tiny bits of plant matter. Soon, another hapless minnow comes along and sees excited flashes of a brother minnow ahead. He must be missing something! He goes over to join his brother and soon the two of them are gobbling up the soggy Wonder bread.

Before you know it, several other minnow brothers and sisters have joined the feeding frenzy. It just gets easier to attract newcomers, the more flashing fish there are in that packed little minnow jar. Surely there is something great in there, and so more and more come and join the frenzy.

There are a few interesting things to note here. First of all, Wonder bread, while bright and exciting, was never God-intended to be a healthy source of nourishment for fish (or people, for that matter). Second, the more fish show up in the jar, the more buzz and activity there is, but the less actual food is available. Third, and most importantly, once they get in there, they’re trapped.

They wait in the jar for their time of use. Then, they have a hook shoved in their backside. They can still flail around, but they can't go anywhere. Inevitably, their purpose in life is to bait another, bigger fish… once their job is done, they’re disposed of. Either they get eaten by a bigger fish, or they die on the line waiting for one to come along. Then they are tossed out and another minnow is captured and put in their place.

This post was inspired by my wonderful country-boy husband.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Baby and the Bath Water

One of the things we ‘free believers’ hear often from those who still faithfully attend an IC is, "Well, you don’t want to just throw the baby out with the bath water." The implied meaning may vary from "Do you really have to be so extreme?" to "Your leaving organized church is the same as leaving the Lord" to "Are you sure you aren’t getting into some New Age religion?"

Our family is considering moving to a place closer to town, so have begun casually looking. We want a fixer-upper, not a new home. So last weekend we were shown … let’s just say, a REAL fixer upper.

This house was once beautiful, but had been so badly neglected for many years that only someone with lots of money and time to invest would want to try and salvage it. The cost of repairing this house to full functionality would far exceed any market price of the house itself. It just wouldn’t be practical for a busy family with modest means to take the time, money and labor to try and restore this house.

I sighed with regret, seeing the beautiful hardwood floors still in great shape in some of the rooms, the large windows, the huge living area, the brick fireplace in the bedroom. There was so much personality and history to this place. Yet there was the old, leaky roof; the serious foundation issues obvious in the floor, the laundry porch literally falling off of the house, the large lawn completely overtaken by weeds, the falling-down carport loaded with junk. Worst of all, there was a large split between the two halves of the house in the roof, and the brick wall on one side had completely pulled away from the roof! It COULD possibly be salvaged, but much of it would still have to be torn down and replaced. I’m often one for trying to save things. I love old homes; we live in one now. Yet I could see it would make more sense to just tear that place down and build a new one.

Many "free believers" have found that trying to salvage the situation at the institutions we’ve been in is more than we, or our families, can really afford. We gave them our time, our money, our efforts, our hearts, our children. We were told that we’d "reap a harvest" by "sowing" as they specified. It didn’t happen as they said. We became more and more tired, drained, and discouraged as time went on.

We sat under some of the better pastors out there, I believe. I really can’t pin the fault on anyone, nor do I want to. I believe the primary issue was with the system, rather than the hearts of the people inside of it. We were trying to build on, or even salvage, a ‘house’ with serious structural flaws.

Darin Hufford wrote a blog that distinguished what the bottom line misunderstanding often is. People tend to see the institution as the baby. That’s why they worry that we are throwing the baby out with the bath water. But really, Jesus is the ‘baby,’ and we aren’t throwing him out… he’s with us always. Now we’re just swimming in a different place ... now it’s more like a river than a bathtub.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Walking with Jesus

"He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering.
Like one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not."
Isaiah 53:2-3

When I was in the sixth grade, I wasn’t what most people considered cute. I was tall and gangly, with buck teeth, a big nose and unkempt hair. Two other sixth graders, whom I’ll call "Buffy" and "Fifi," made life torture for me that year. Among the most cute and popular girls in our grade, Buffy and Fifi sauntered about in their Calvin Klein jeans and top-of-the line Nike tennis shoes, chattering with their numerous friends. But they took breaks from socializing at regular intervals to torment me.

Each morning they cornered me in homeroom, then again in math class, making fun of my clothes, my hair, my lack of friends, or any other thing they could think of to make me feel small and stupid. Fifi would make ugly remarks, and when I'd retort, Buffy would mimick whatever I said in her high, squeaky voice. Sometimes other kids would sit in on the 'fun' and add their own two cents worth.

The daily bus ritual was the worst. Somehow I got stuck sitting by them nearly every day, I couldn’t get away from them. They would pull my barrettes out of my hair, pull my papers and books loose from my stack, scathingly tease me and call me names until I was nearly in tears. I would hear their taunting laughter sail through the open bus windows as I tried to make sense of my tattered belongings once I got off at my stop. Sometimes they'd do me the courtesy of returning my barettes or books via chucking them through the bus window, sometimes not. More than once I fished my wadded-up math homework out of a rain puddle. I always managed to hold back the tears until the bus was out of sight.

"The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a purple robe and went up to him again and again, saying, ‘Hail, king of the Jews!’ And they struck him in the face.’" John 19:2-3

It seems detrimental to dwell on such experiences as my sixth grade year. So I haven’t allowed myself to pull the experience out of the file cabinet of my mind and examine it for quite some time. Yet for some reason it has surfaced and stayed in the forefront of my mind, a couple of weeks after my "going to church" experience.

I’m not totally clear on the connection here myself, as there is still a gap between the people I liked the least at IC on their worst day, and Buffy and Fifi on their best (if they had one) day. Yet perhaps Father has brought the sixth grade experience to mind to remind me of a couple of things.

First, being happy, comfortable, popular, and having a place you ‘fit’ does not necessarily mean you are living with a right heart or doing as Father would want. Second, even if you are unattractive, mocked, lacking a circle of friends, a 'misfit' and badly outnumbered, it does not necessarily mean you have done anything wrong or that you aren't where Father intends you to be.

I’ve never truly understood how suffering is supposed to help mold us into the image of God. It is counter-cultural, both in and out of the church, to see suffering as anything but a result of your failure in some way. Hence my struggles in accepting suffering even now. It’s going to take time for me to ‘get’ this, but I’m at least beginning to understand.

One day recently I was praying, again telling Father how this path feels like traveling through west Texas and I really don’t want to be wrong. I want my heart to be conformed to his, and things sure don’t look too promising on the outside. If it’s him leading me, I will go wherever he leads. Yet we’ve all heard the name calling and perhaps at low points wondered if it's true. Unrepentant, unteachable, unsubmissive, "Jezebel spirit," lone ranger Christian, rebellious.

It can make a person feel a little crazy some days. In sixth grade I would walk home from the bus stop crying, wondering why a girl like me who was never mean to anyone was viewed and treated as a nobody. And why these mean girls had SO many friends and apparently no one else was ever bothered by (or hardly even noticed) the things I saw! If I could have put myself into a Transformer machine and come out with a cute new face, new Calvin Klein jeans and a vivacious personality, I would have.

I'd be hard pressed to believe that anyone staying on this 'out of the box' path for any length of time just said, "hey, that emergent church thing looks trendy, I think I'll go hop on that bandwagon." If I had any reason to believe I could go ‘back to church,’ find a good fit, and actually grow and thrive spiritually, I’d be there this Sunday! It might be easier to be happily oblivous to the things we wrestle with and yearn for. We could just put on a nice Sunday dress and go Belong to the Sunday crowd. No, we don’t walk off the beaten path because we enjoy being labeled or looked down on. We as humans naturally tend to take the path of least resistance. Walking through west Texas is something I'd only want to do with the Lord! He calls us, and he equips us, even though we may struggle and suffer along the way.

As a Christian, the most frustrating part of not fitting in is wondering when Father is going to finish working it all together for good. I’m still waiting to see the kingdom purpose in a lot of the things I’ve suffered. Waiting is hard.

But as I prayed I felt Father take me by the shoulders and hold me comfortingly and firmly. It’s all right, he said. It’s gonna be fine.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Going to church: an eye-opening experience

Due to our children’s participation in a youth program with an organized church outfit, we attended a service there this past weekend (the youth sang several songs and passed the offering plates). It had been some time since we’ve even dropped in on a service, and it’s interesting how my perspective has changed.

In some church services we’ve visited and attended over the years, it would have been a much more pleasant experience if we could have just skipped the pastor’s sermon. This was no exception. The music was nice. The people served us a nice potluck lunch. We know a few of them slightly and I’m sure they’re good people.

This pastor gave a sermon on making sure you attend "church." We’ve all heard the admonishments. Do not forsake the gathering. I shake my head at how unimaginative and unchanging these IC messages are. They are all variations on a theme: Come to church, preferably ours. Otherwise, something bad is sure to happen to you.

This pastor told a story that years ago I would have thought a clever illustration. A young man was backslidden; had stopped going to church. His pastor came to see him one evening, of course to check up on him and bring him back to the fold. The young man let the pastor in and the two sat by the blazing fire, not speaking for several minutes. Finally the pastor took the fireplace tongs, removed one ember and set it on the hearth. The two watched as the coal cooled, finally becoming completely cold.

The pastor turned to leave without a word, and the young man followed him with tears in his eyes and said, "I’ll be in church this week, pastor. Thank you for a wonderful sermon."

This story was enthusiastically received by the rest of the audience. Of course, the institutional interpretation of Hebrews 10:25 was admonished from the pulpit. Then several more comments from the pastor and the others in the congregation: "Go to church. Your fire for Jesus will eventually die out completely if you stay away from the group. You will become a 'dead coal.' We need each other. You need the fellowship. You need the accountability."

After witnessing this whole scene, I was left with several questions and ponderings of my own. Like:

1. Does this sort of thing really happen, just as told? Are born again Christians who quit "going to church" EVER truly backslidden? Is there really even such a thing? Or is this an oxymoron?

2. If the fire just dies, away from the group, what was the source of the fire in the first place? Real love and passion for the Lord, or group dynamics at work? Ever notice how a group of kids can get your kid to do something they’d NEVER do at home, be it good or bad? Ever notice how YOU have done things with a group that you’d never do alone? How can a PERSONAL relationship with Jesus possibly fit into this mentality? I know the Bible speaks of encouraging each other along in good works, but I’ve discovered that the average person doesn’t understand the difference between encouragement to do what you were made to do, and pressure to do as the group wants.

3. Most importantly, if a person is experiencing genuine love, acceptance, encouragement, and edification by participating in a group, why in the world would they ever want to leave??! I can really only imagine, but I have a hunch that if the church was functioning at even 75% capacity of what Father has in mind for us, they wouldn’t be able to barricade the doors of the gathering house strongly enough to keep folks out! I wonder if it would ever occur to this pastor (among many others) what a glaring indicator of something seriously amiss in the gathering, for the people of God to need an admonishment to "come to church."

4. The pastor was, essentially, telling the people that if they stopped attending 'church,' Jesus would leave them. I shake my head in sorrow that some people sit in pews and listen to this sort of teaching their whole lives. The lady sitting next to me mentioned she was 90 years old. That's a long time to live with fear that your Lord might leave you! Do some institutionalized Christians know true peace in the Lord in spite of such teachings? I hope so.

The whole "backslidden" idea doesn’t even make sense to me. Why would anyone experiencing an uplifting, authentic time with God and his people find sin or staying away more appealing? Even if they are struggling with sin, I think it’s more likely that they left because the IC is not a safe environment to reveal their struggles.

Yes, fellowship is important. Gathering in Jesus’ name is important. And this is where it gets sad. When the service was over I sighed with relief. Then I went to the ladies’ room and prayed. It saddens me to this day how far away I feel from most of my brothers and sisters. What are the answers, traveling down this long and often lonely road outside the box?

I have found some of them. I know that Jesus can and will keep me spiritually safe anywhere, anytime, in any circumstance. He is much bigger than the club house and their accountability program. I also see what Old Testament mentality so many Christians are stuck in. I see many reasons WHY "going to church" was largely such a miserable and frustrating experience for me. The main one being I never heard the simple and untainted gospel there! I know that I could never "go to church" again and I’d only long to know and love my Lord more.

I also know that the opposite of the "cooled coal" story is true with me. I could not, in my heart, even BEGIN to believe how much God loves me until I got AWAY from the institutional group and went down a less-traveled path with him. While being a 'good little Christian' and faithfully 'attending church,' I was dying inside. I was steadily being strangled with the ropes of bondage that the institutional mindsets had me tied up in. A hundred different Jesuses were propped up before me over the years, and in my heart I was crying, "Will the real Jesus stand up!!" And finally, I am seeing him. He's so simple and pure, it's awesome.

It isn't easy being 'outside the box' in some ways. But I couldn't, for a minute, trade knowing that he loves me, and that IT IS FINISHED just like He said.

Yet some answers are still disquietingly absent. For all their faulty doctrine, the people inside the walls still get to experience a certain degree of structure and fellowship that I miss having. I never really fit in during my days of attending IC, yet I wonder how long will I remain isolated outside? Will I ever get to experience satisfying face to face Christian fellowship as a regular part of life? What purpose does my being different and failure to fit into any church box really serve?? This last question is the heaviest of all on my heart.

I recently had a conversation with Darin Hufford in which he talked about eccentricity being a heart set aside for a special and unique purpose. I know Darin has gone through a lot of rejection and isolation as a result of being different. I also know that what God has done in him and through him is incredible. He has offered hope to many system burnouts who had all but given up hope. He is one of those few and far between Christians who is trying to BE Christ to others, rather than just talk about him.

I am praying for Father to show me that he has special plans for me too, because I am different and set apart for something unique. I will travel as far down this road as Father leads me to if it is truly him leading me. But it can be like traveling through west Texas. If any of you have ever done that you know exactly what I mean. I sure as heck don’t want to be going down this road and not even be on the right road. When you’re traveling through west Texas, you keep a sharp eye out for any road sign telling how many more miles to your destination, otherwise you might start wondering if you just missed it and they’re gonna find your skull next to the one of the longhorn cow lying next to the cactus. I don’t see any road signs and that makes me nervous sometimes.

Father, give me ever-growing perspective. Get me through these times of uncertainty with ever-stronger faith.

"May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it." 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

North and South

Here's a geography lesson for everyone, as I try to work on a more 'serious' blog.

Clip Art ~ Royalty-free Redneck Clipart, Redneck Illustrations

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The North has Bloomingdale's, the South has Dollar

The North has coffee houses, the South has Waffle Houses.

The North has dating services, the South has family

The North has switchblade knives; the South has Lee
Press-on Nails.

The North has double last names; the South has double first

The North has Indy car races; The South has stock car

North has Cream of Wheat, the South has grits.

The North has green salads, the South has collard greens.

The North has lobsters, the South has craw fish.

The North has the rust belt; the South has the Bible Belt.


In the South: --If you run your car into a ditch, don't
panic. Four men in a four-wheel drive pickup truck with a
tow chain will be along shortly. Don't try to help them,
just stay out of their way.
This is what they live for.

Don't be surprised to find movie rentals and bait in
the same store....
do not buy food at this store.

Remember, 'Y'all' is singular, 'all
y'all' is plural,
and 'all y'all's' is plural possessive

Get used to hearing 'You ain't from round here, are

Save all manner of bacon grease.
You will be instructed later on how to use it.

Don't be worried at not understanding what people are
saying. They can't understand you either. The first
Southern statement to creep into a transplanted
Northerner's vocabulary is the adjective
'big'ol,' truck or 'big'ol' boy.
Most Northerners begin their Southern-influenced dialect
this way. All of them are in denial about it.

The proper pronunciation you learned in school is no longer

Be advised that 'He needed killin.' is a valid
defense here.

If you hear a Southerner exclaim, 'Hey, y'all watch
this,' you should stay out of the way. These are likely
to be the last words he'll ever say.

If there is the prediction of the slightest chance of even
the smallest accumulation of snow, your presence is required
at the local grocery store. It doesn't matter whether
you need anything or not.
You just have to go there.

Do not be surprised to find that 10-year olds own their own
shotguns, they are proficient marksmen, and their mammas
taught them how to aim.

In the South, we have found that the best way to grow a
lush green lawn is to pour gravel on it and call it a

AND REMEMBER: If you do settle in the South and bear
children, don't think we will accept them as
Southerners. After all, if the cat had kittens in the oven,
we wouldn't call 'em biscuits.

Agin, from some unnamed clever source on the internet - hope you n' your kin git a kick out of it!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Invalidation ... and loneliness

My free-believing sister Dena sent this link discussing a serious wound that we as human beings inflict on each other - invalidation. I agree that it is one of the most damaging things we can do to one another. Browsing this link, I am reminded how sad it is when people are ready to kick others when they’re down and shoot them once they’re wounded.

There are of course many ways of invalidating a hurting person, but today I want to talk about invalidation of loneliness. We’ve all heard ideas such as this from the church:

"If you’re feeling lonely, it’s your fault. You’re too self-focused. You need to get out there and find someone to serve, someone to love. That will take the focus off you." Or to a person who is struggling with no one reaching out to them, "You don’t come to church to get your needs met. You are here to serve."

While there is sometimes truth to both statements, I’ve never understood how telling these things to a lonely person is supposed to help them. Like Job’s friends during his suffering, people tend to spout off all the religious truth they know, without really understanding (or bothering to find out) what is really going on with the lonely person in front of them.

Loneliness is not best dealt with by telling the person to pull themselves up by their boot straps and get over it. I think the common American IC view on loneliness is rooted in the famous myth, "The Lord (only) helps those who help themselves." The truth is, severe loneliness can be like trying to help yourself out of quicksand. Does the church mean to say that these people are out of luck until and unless they can do this?

Jesus knew he was dealing with some very lonely people indeed. After all, he talked to tax collectors and prostitutes all the time. But as I recall he prioritized making them feel loved, rather than making sure they knew their loneliness was "their fault." He validated them as human beings, he took the time to see their hurts. As Darin well stated in his Religion of Correction blog , correcting someone works much better after they have been made to feel safe and loved.

It’s true that we all share responsibility for the state of loneliness in today’s church culture. But, there is an important distinction between urging people to share the responsibility for loving one another (thus erasing loneliness) and blaming people for their own loneliness. Blame brings condemnation, but loving people and helping them see a better way brings conviction.

Jesus left the 99 sheep who were in the fold to go out and find the one that was lost. Now, this could be taken as a simple illustration of salvation, but I see meaning in this parable for believers. I’ve seen many IC situations where the 99 in the fold (the inner circle) having too much fun with their friends to notice the one standing shyly off to the side. I’ve cringed when I’ve heard pastors imply that the one who isn’t included is to blame for not trying hard enough to reach out.

It is always more convenient to blame the weak and hurting, than to take a look at the responsibility that the stronger person or group may hold in a situation. But as Wayne Jacobsen well put it in Naked Church, Jesus tended to measure the success of any ministry by how many of the weak were helped, not by how many of the strong muddied the pond.

My opinion is that the church would do better to spend more time bringing the problem of loneliness to the attention of happy, comfortable people who have lots of fellowship. Lonely people already feel like there's something wrong with them, why rub salt into their wounds? Jesus took on the role of a humble servant so the weak could draw near to him. Can we do the same for one another?