Pruning, Growing, and Death and Hell

Friday, January 30, 2015  ::   3 important comments

The past few months have been fairly challenging for me and my family. Recently, I've said several times that Second Mile is being pruned. When we first moved to Tucson, an older, well-meaning, pastor's wife took me to the side and spoke to me with an intentional, sober tone with words of the necessity of building a fortress around my family, protecting my husband and my kids, because "the church" would destroy us if I didn't. Whoa. At that stage of my life, I listened to her with a sad curiosity of what made her say such things to me, but easily dismissed them and pushed the roots of my desire to love people and welcome them into my home and family even deeper. So, for ten years that's what I've done.

Recently, I faced a circumstance that brought that women back to my memory. I thought of her with new understanding as I dealt with something that made almost everything within me want to turn inward, to build a fortress around my family, to "protect" my husband and kids. There is no telling what that sweet woman had faced through the years, what her husband or family had endured, or even what she was currently dealing with, but I was facing very real thoughts of enough is enough. I have enough people in my life. There are enough people in our church. There is enough work to do. There are enough problems to deal with. Enough. Taking those dark thoughts captive felt like a work-out of heavy weight lifting. My heart muscle is still a little sore from it all. 

"I am the vine and my Father is the Gardner. He cuts off every branch in me that doesn't bear fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful." John 15:1-2

Did you know that when a church is pruned, the leaders are probably also being pruned? It is good, painful, stretching, pulling, holy work for both the church and her leaders. The result: new, fresh, beautiful fruit. In my own life, I can see the buds of the fruit of new, fresh, beautiful desire to have more and more new people in my home and around my family, but with a deeper, richer dependance on God with my eyes set on him. I am working to learn to trust that as he uses my family to be hospitable, he will be the fortress around us, that he will truly protect my husband and kids. Sweet relief. 

"I am the vine and you are the branches. If you remain in me and I remain in you, you will bear much fruit. Apart from me you can do nothing." John 15:5

And for Second Mile? Well, we are growing! There are so many new faces each Sunday that it is difficult to meet everyone, and Second Milers are engaging with these people! It isn't left on Chad's or my shoulders. In fact, we can hardly meet anyone new because so many people are talking with them! It's fresh, beautiful fruit! I'm thankful and waiting with a holy awe of what God is doing among us.

To top it off, we just finished our annual week of prayer and fasting. More people than ever fully participated as we prayed for wisdom, for potential changes, for the ability to be radically hospitable. After our prayer gathering I was standing around 5-7 young people in their twenties, all of whom had fasted for an entire week. Rich, beautiful, God-pleasing fruit. 

"This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples." John 15:8

In my very biased opinion, Chad has been bringing it on Sunday evenings! I think his teaching is getting better and better. My friend, Anna, once said about Chad's teaching, that she loves the times when it is obvious when Chad is talking but she knows it's actually the Holy Spirit speaking. I love it, too.  If you want to learn more about Jesus through the book of Hebrews, I encourage you to watch or listen to the series

However, in the spirit of learning to allow God to be my protector, I'm going to take this opportunity to defend myself. Wait. What? But in all silliness, in Chad's amazing teaching there have been a couple of times recently that he only half represented me to all the new people that are coming to Second Mile which brought good laughter from the crowd. I want to finish off this post by offering the rest of the story, an extra piece of fruit, if you will. Don't worry, I am not hurt in the least. If you listen to Chad talking about me and can't tell that he loves me, you aren't really listening. 

A few Sundays ago he was talking about my ability to relate with people. He often greatly encourages and praises me for my relational skills. I love when he points out some way I've specifically loved someone. He's my biggest fan. My family calls me Barbara Walters because they constantly witness people I don't even know telling me very profound things about their lives and crying as they speak to me. It's true. People often cry when they talk to me. I like to think it is because they know I'm safe, that I genuinely care, that they are laying down some of the burden they carry. Chad decided he should tell everyone on a Sunday night that if they talk to me, I will make them cry. Fantastic. People avoided eye contact with me the rest of the night. Just kidding. Sort of. 

This last Sunday Chad announced to everyone that I'm especially gifted at telling my kids they deserve death and hell. That's it. Mr. Detail left out the important details! It was in the middle of good words, and there was appropriate laughter. But, listen, there is a reason this is one of my life mottos. That's right, "I/we deserve death and hell" is a life motto and, in my opinion, for a very good reason. 

Our culture is such an entitled, selfish, bratty, obese creature, so to remind myself I don't "deserve" anything, but instead remember that all good things are gifts of God's grace to me, when I get greedy and selfish I tell myself what I could be getting (death and hell) and then start to thank God for the bountiful goodness that I have. So when my kids rear their selfish sides and try to tell me what they "deserve", I simply and calmly ask them what they actually deserve (death and hell), and then ask them to tell me some things they are thankful for. My hope and goal is to raise humans that are grateful, thankful, and content instead of little "I deserve" monsters. Capeesh? 

What's the point of these words spilling out of my heart? A few things: 

Pruning in me is producing a deeper dependance on God with a commitment to love people and serve the church. It is good and I like it.  

Second Mile is growing. People are going deeper in their own faith, and many new people are blessing us with their presence. I'm hoping people will want to link arms with us and do big things for Jesus in Tucson and the world. 

If you are new, I will try really hard not to make you cry or tell you that you deserve death and hell. 

What about you? Have you experienced any pruning lately? What are you learning? Do you having any funny quirks you would be willing to share with us? 

Much pruning and many blessings to you! 

To Not Be the Same

Thursday, January 01, 2015  ::   19 important comments

One of the good things that happened in 2014 is that I took a beginner's running class. The coaches helped and encouraged me along to my first goal of running a 5K in November. Many people have asked me how I did in the race. Well, I made the classic first race mistake and went out too fast in the beginning, and then by the end I needed to go to the restroom so bad I wasn't sure I would make it to the finish line or the bathroom. Yikes. So, my answer to all the askers became, "Well, I finished and I didn't poop my pants, so I did great!" You should see the faces at my response. It's fantastic. 

When I first started running (what I really mean is jogging at a pace that you could probably walk next to me), my head was filled with negativity. I asked Kyle what he thinks about while running, and he pretty much just thinks about running. I told him about my ugly self thoughts and he gently put his hand on my shoulder, and with tenderness and compassion spoke truth to me. "Mom, you have to stop doing that. You can do this!" He was so right, so I focused on new thought-life exercises while I exercised my body. I prayed for everything I could think of. I thanked God for every single thing that came to mind. And my favorite, I started reviewing every verse I could remember that I've ever memorized. Guess what? My negative self-chastisement no longer plagues me while I'm running. I can run free in my mind. 

Psalm 121 and Psalm 139 have been mediated on and quoted in my mind and heart over and over and over since my running journey began. I've had both passages memorized since college, but this fall, God showed me new and powerful truths in each passage. Once again God has used scripture memory in my life to bring about transformation, and I am humbled and grateful. 

This past Sunday, my wonderful, intelligent, bible-loving, pastor, husband stuck it to me through his message. The title grabbed me immediately: Longing and Expecting to Not Be the Same. He used verse after verse to remind me how much I need and want transformation of ideas and images I hold that are lie-based or culturally-based and not founded on the truth of Christ. Through the message I was once again challenged to press into the Word of God through reading, listening, studying, meditating, and memorizing. 

Therefore, I decided to start up the scripture memory accountability we shared on this blog a couple of years ago. This is going to be so good for us! Each month on the first, I will post some sort of blog about scripture memory, what I'm learning, suggested verses to memorize...anything that comes to my random mind. Then every month on the first or the few days following, you will leave a comment with the one or two verses you are memorizing for the month. Make sense? 

You should set a goal for how many verses you want to learn each month. I would suggest with starting with two verses per month for the first two to three months. If you find it's too easy, then maybe decide to learn one per week. When I was in college I memorized a verse a day, and retained them by reviewing them regularly. You can do this. Please don't tell me you can't or I get all Jillian Michaels on you and start encouraging/yelling at you that YES YOU CAN AND I DON'T WANT TO EVER HEAR THE WORDS "I CAN'T" AGAIN! But if you're too tender for a Jillian experience, I will just hold your hand and tell you that you absolutely can because God wants to transform your heart and mind so he will enable you to do this. 

If you would like more information on the process of how this will work, please go to this blog post that I wrote in January of 2011. It will be helpful. If you have questions, leave them in the comments or send me a personal message. I am absolutely wanting to help you grow and become more like Christ. One thing I know for sure is I'm passionate about mentoring and this is a very practical way to mentor many of you at the same time. 

One last thing, for the next few months I will be working on memorizing one of my life passages. It is funny that I've never committed this to memory, so it is time for me to stop making excuses and make it happen. For January I will work on 2 Timothy 3:1-2.

2 Timothy 3:1-2 
But understand this,  that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy

Such an encouraging passage to start 2015 with, don't you think? Whoa. 

Ok, here we go! I can't overstate it. I'm excited to do this with you! Please comment with what you are memorizing and any other lovely things you would like to say. And don't forget to let me know if you need help. Helping is my favorite. 

Blessings to each of you as we start brand spanking new year!