Friday, January 21, 2011

Billboard Solutions

As my husband drove me to work yesterday, he commented on a sign that said "QUICK DIVORCE." Those two words were followed by a telephone number. That was all the giant billboard said. Tim commented "you see signs like that for negative things all the time, but you never see signs by Christians for a quick fix."

I admit I had to ponder on it for a moment because I was taken aback by his comment. First he is not a believer, or is backsliding for over a decade - so that he would admit that God is the solution was unexpected. Second it was really early in the morning for such an in depth thought!

After thinking about it, and commenting openly about my surprise, I was able to respond. I told him that too often we spend years getting ourselves into a big mess. Then we want to turn to God for a quick fix. Often we get our solution only to replace the problem with one of a similar nature, because we didn't really learn anything. Look at the people who replace one addiction for another, or who file bankruptcy only to get into the same mess a few years down the road.

God wants us to come to Him and spend time with Him, not just run through the "prayer drive-thru" for a quick fix. God desires relationship with us. When we get a quick solution, this is not out of relationship, but from God's mercy and grace. As our associate pastor, Pastor Curtis Holt says, "you don't get all the blessing and promises without relationship and true repentance." I pointed out that God has the answer but usually it is in the process that we go through where most lessons are learned and true growth occurs.

As I was journaling about this last night, I started thinking about the billboard again and Tim's comment. I thought about some of the "Christian" billboards I have seen. The eye-catching, attention-getting messages from God. I thought about the catchy-slogan "Got God?" Well in all honesty, there are a lot of people out there that have no idea how to get God. So what if the message is read and the answer is "no." Where is the help in getting God? The sign may raise a problem, but offers no solution. Even the divorce billboard offered a number to meet the need.

There are also billboards that offer church location and times. Some are mere advertising campaigns that are eye catching, but nothing more than another costly billboard advertising. Some billboards have pictures that present unrealistic pictures of what an unbeliever is going to see when they walk in the door of most churches. They might be met by a greeter and receive direction of where to go, but is what is portrayed in those pictures real - or merely "false advertising."

What would Jesus have done? Would He have had a billboard? Honestly I don't think He would have. Everywhere I read - people came to Him. People sought Him out because they knew He had the answer. He was out and about doing Our Father's business and people recognized there was something different about Him. He didn't have a town crier going before him, people gathered on their own. He didn't advertise His presence, He just did what He was called to do.

What if the church billboards didn't advertise the church - but the solution? Simple messages like "Marriage Problems? Followed by the church's number. Or "Hurting" Followed by the church's number. "Stressed?" Followed by the church's number. "Problem with Addictions?" Followed by the church's number.

What if that phone was manned twenty-four seven - maybe forwarded to various members phones so that one person or a few people alone were not carrying that burden. The reality is, like my husband pointed out, the church has the solution to EVERY problem faced. The real question is "Will we step up and offer the solution?"

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Freedom Choices

When I first came back to the Lord after walking away for seven years, I have to admit I defined my life in what "I can't do." You know "I can't drink." "I can't do drugs." "I can't have sex." I can't cuss." "I can't smoke." "I can't watch that." "I can't listen to that." I was always focused on the authority of my Lord, and the things I can't do and be in a relationship with him. I changed my life drastically, but my heart was not in that choice. I was doing it because "The big guy in the sky." I was not doing it because it was the right thing to do, but because someone told me I had to. My motive was not relationship, it was the punitive judgement I thought would fall on me. My flesh still cried out for every one of those things.

As I grew in my walk with God, I started to slowly renew my mind. My "cant's" changed to "dont's." I don't do this or that. My motive was not out of relationship, it was out of religious pride. "I don't do that, because I am strong enough in that area." Although I might have been, I don't think I was intentionally trying to put myself above someone else, but I think my flesh was. I wanted to show all the things I "don't do" because I am "such a good Christian." I don't have to deal with that anymore. My flesh at times still wanted those things, but I didn't partake because I needed to prove I was more "spiritual" than that.

The other day I found myself answering "I can do it, I just make a choice not to." God has revealed something else and made yet another change in my attitude as I daily chose to renew my mind. I realize now that all those "cant's" and all those "dont's" are fruitless in God's eyes because my attitude is what He is looking at. God had given me freedom of choice. I can chose to be in a relationship with Him. I can chose to put Him first. I can chose to live intimately with Him in obedience or I can chose to focus on the shouldn't and couldn't things.

He gives me the freedom to chose. He is not going to crush me and He is certainly not impressed by my religious attitude. God is looking for my choice. He is looking at my heart when I make that choice, and nothing from Him is hidden (Psalms 44:21 and Romans 2:15-16). He is looking for me to chose His ways over my own. He is looking for me to put Him first in my life. He is looking for me to honor Him with my whole life. He is looking for my actions to line up with my renewed mind. He is looking for me to chose to walk in obedience to Him because I love Him and want nothing to come between us. The freedom I have, comes from my choices!

Saturday, January 8, 2011


It is interesting to read old testament passages with the knowledge of what will happen. I was thinking, don't they get it?

People asked for signs - and yet as big and bold as they would come it was not enough.

Jeremiah spoke boldly about what would come. For the fact that he could have been killed just for speaking out - one would think that would be sign enough.

When things started to take place as he had prophesied that should have been a sign -yet again it was not heeded.

When others put themselves in danger to try to protect Jeremiah or advocate for what he was saying,that should have been a sign.

But they were all ignored.

As I passed judgement on the old testament people for not heeding God's warning, I realized that it is easy for me to see because I know what happens. However, am I just a quick to read the signs that are before me today?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

I can do something

I am sitting in my car. I have been here two hours and thirty minutes. It is cold outside, and in my car too. Somewhere, I've lost my keys. I am waiting, waiting, waiting.

First, I walked back up in the freezing cold to the hospital, hoping I had just left the keys in my office. No luck there. Then I waited on the locksmith, who (bless him God), had to follow my directions and still had to ask for more from someone else. He came, but I found no keys in the car.

My spare key is an hour and fifteen minutes away. Plus, I have to wait for my husband to get to a vehicle to bring him here. Praise God his motorcycle started so he could drive to get our daughter's car. Praise God she was at work and her car was just a few minutes away. So now I am just waiting.

My husband said, go inside and I will call you when I get there. I told him I would wait, it is cold and I didn't want to walk back up to the main building. I thought I could use the quiet time with God. So I was reading in Psalms 119. David cried out "I'm homesick." several times. As I read I thought "I want to be home in my nice warm bed.". Even though this morning, I was thinking it was too cold in my bed as I grabbed a third blanket to put on at 1 am.

I realized, my nose, fingers, and toes feel frozen. I keep shifting around to add warmth. I am hungry and probably a little dehydrated. It has been two and a half hours since my "dilemma" began.

At any time I could walk about 150 feet into a warm, yet dark building. Or I could walk less than 1000 feet and be in the main hospital with other people, heat, lights, food and water. Many cars have passed without taking notice. While I was waiting for the locksmith, one stopped to tell me I could call security. I already had - security gave me the locksmith's number.

Then I realized, I feel this way after two hours; what about people who are homeless? People who truly have no options. How many times have "We just passed them by."? We ignore the person standing in front of us. Or the person standing outside their car in the freezing weather, just standing there dumbfounded like I was tonight. We ignore because of our own busyness, sometimes out of our own selfishness. Sometimes we ignore out of ignorance.

It is so easy to think "Well they have other options." No, there is not always other options. Choices can help a situation, but there is not always an immediate option. In 1996, I became homeless. I could not go home. There was no home to go to. Through a turn of events in my family, I could not just go stay with extended family. Realize, I did not have a drug addiction. I did not have an alcohol addiction. I did not gamble. I did not have a spending problem. I was not looking for a free ride.

I was a divorced mother of two young children. I made a little over minimum wage working a full time job. I had a car - no payments, it was just enough to get my kids to daycare and me to work. I made too much for assistance programs. My children's father didn't work so there was no child support.

I can still remember the feelings of desperation that I had when I turned to a living in situation that was beyond bad, so that I could keep a roof over my children's head. And to do that I had to give my son to his father to keep because otherwise he would have taken him from me through the legal system. I certainly had no money to fight that. I will still cry to this day when I say "I had to give away my son."

I praise God that I had connections to people who could pull strings and knew the resources to help me, so that it truly was a temporary situation. I praise God that I have never known what it was like to be cold and not get warm. I praise God that I have never had to go without food or water, or a bath or shower. I praise God that even though it wasn't a perfect situation that I was able to have a roof over my head and that my children were safe. I praise God that my children were young enough that when they hear this story, they look at me in bewilderment because they have no memory of "being homeless."

As I thought about the people out in the streets, I realized right right now it is 32degrees. In many parts of the country, and world, it is so much colder. There are people that have nothing between them and the elements. We are all stuck in our own little world. We live beyond our means, we waste what others would treasure. My heart was saddened, as I realized that there are enough resources in this world to meet the needs of every homeless person, but like Matthew West sings "IN MY OWN LITTLE WORLD" there is a bigger picture.

Maybe I can't rescue ever person on the streets. Maybe I can't make sure that every person has a safe place to sleep, a warm blanket all on my own. Maybe I can't feed every hungry person. However, I can resolve to do something. I can take time to notice the people around me. I can pay attention to what is really happening. I can make a difference for at least one person. I can give something - even if it is a gift card to a fast food place. I can do something - like support an organization that helps the homeless - with my time, belongings and resources. I can speak up and give them a voice - by researching the facts and making sure the legislatures know about the real problem and that funding is appropriated to it. What would happen if we each decided "I can do something."

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Lessons from I Kings 19

I admit lately I have been feeling discouraged and depressed. I have so related to how Elijah felt after his life was threatened by the queen following the victory God gave him over the prophets of Baal.

I was reading over this passage,  In I Kings 19 and thought God what can I learn from how he handled this depressing time in his life. Here is what was revealed to me:

1) Seek God first - Elijah didn't do this instead he ran in fear

2) Don't fear the threats of the enemy (If God be for us, who can be against us!!!)

3) When you feel completely drained, God can give you substanence

4) When God gives you substanence it will sustain you and strengthen you for whatever lies ahead

5) God doesn't want to hear our excuses, or us blaming others, or our pity party (for that fact I am sure neither do others)

6) Sometimes God will blow things away, shake our very foundation, and burn things up just to get our attention

7) God will speak to our situation if we will get quiet and still enough to hear Him

8) When we run, God will eventually send us back to what we ran from

9) God always has others that will come along beside us if we will take time to heed His direction

10) No matter how bad things seem, how alone we may feel, we are never alone.