Thursday, December 13, 2018

You Know What Happens When You Assume?


I wonder how much hurt in life could be avoided if everyone followed simple rules.   Rules like, "If your brother offends you.... go to HIM."

Or "Is it good?  Is it Kind?  Is it Necessary?   if not, don't say it.  Or, better put in the Four Way Test of Rotary that we should use to evaluate what we say:

  1. Is it the truth?
  2. Is it fair to all concerned?
  3. Will it build goodwill and better friendships?
  4. Will it be beneficial to all concerned?

or how about the rule about not assuming..... or about erring on the side of grace, believing the best in others, and giving people the benefit of the doubt?

This is a rough season for me.   There are four situations in particular where I cannot defend myself.  I cannot explain.   I cannot say a word publicly    And I wonder what assumptions are being made about me.  I hear rumors of what people are saying about me but I can't explain any of it.

And in all of those situations, there is really a lot more to the story.  Further more,  I don't have choices.  People are assuming that I am making decisions, that I am choosing to do certain things, and yet, I'm not.  The choice is not with me.

As you know I'm not overly sensitive, but I am frustrated enough tonight to remind all of us not to talk about people if we haven't talked to them.   To remind us that when we assume, we should clarify directly with the source before passing those assumptions on.   And finally to remind each of us that Grace Wins Every Time.

I don't care all that much about what people think -- I had to give that up a long time ago.   We have had to move beyond that as our children have made choices over the years.  But others aren't as resilient or as strong, and we need to protect others from the pain by following these rules.   

My way of dealing with all of this through the past few months has been is to check my own motives, make sure I am extending forgiveness and grace, and ask the Holy Spirit to correct me where I need to be corrected.  And I've been reminded to make sure that as I'm making assumptions about others that I don't repeat them as truth.

Maybe the purpose of all this (if there is one) is for me to check myself and remind myself to treat others the way I want to be treated.

I don't know if this was  helpful to anyone -- but I didn't write it for you.  I wrote it for me. Is that OK?

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Where is the Church?!?


Over 20 years ago I realized that nearly all of the issues that we face in society can step back to a child entering adulthood without significant healthy relationships with people who can love and mentor them.   You've heard me quote the statistics of what happens when kids age out of foster care for a really long time.

Let me share some with you:

1) Twenty percent of youth who were in foster care will become instantly homeless upon aging out.

2) There is less than a 3% chance of a child who ages out of foster care achieving higher education.

3) Only one out of every two older youth will have employment by the age of twenty-four. 

4) Twenty-five percent of older youth who age out of foster care are affected by PTSD. 

5) Seven out of ten girls who age out will become pregnant before the age of twenty-one.

There are other statistics out there — statistics about incarceration and sex trafficking, for example.   And they are all a direct result of kids entering adulthood without the support they need.

You will hear more and more about a regional initiative that we are spearheading at my work over the next several years.  It involves insuring that the number of kids enter adulthood without positive relationships will get smaller and smaller in our area.

It’s a cool initiative …. it involves government, private agencies, and the church working together.   Each month we have something we call “The Gathering” in Lynchburg (you’re welcome to come).   We invite people from agencies and churches to come talk about how we can work together to make sure that kids are safe, families are strong, and the church community is faithfully supporting them.

Last month we had our meeting and there was only one person representing a church in the room.   The private agencies were there having been told that this was a collaboration…. and they showed up.   But one of them commented that this happens frequently — they head to meetings saying that the church is involved, but nobody shows up.

“Where is the Church?” he asked.

And so I ask you the same question.


Where is the Church?

Get Busy!


We all know what James 1:27 says (or we should) :-)

But do you know what James 1:26 says?  I thought I did, but when I heard the two verses together I was a little surprised.

26 Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. 
27Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

So what’s the opposite of true religion — not controlling the tongue.   Yikes.  Ouch.  Dang.  Yuck.  Oh No!

I wonder though if the Bible were written in our day if it might say, “a tight rein on their tongues and their fingers” because it seems like a lot of what we are saying lately we are saying by typing.

When I was thinking about why James put those two things together I wonder if it just means that when we spend so much time yapping we don’t have time to do what God is really wanting us to do — take care of others.   And certainly if we keep a tight rein on our tongues and fingers, that may help us to be kept away from the pollution — because when we talk (or type) we often hear (and read) stuff that is not helpful.

I’m writing this to myself more than anyone else and giving myself a talking to.  " Shut up and get busy, Claudia.  There’s work to do!"

I am blessed to be involved (and get paid to be involved) in doing what God accept as pure and faultless.   The issue of taking care of orphans (or, I prefer to use the word vulnerable children) is what wakes me up every morning and keeps me going.  It’s also sometimes what keeps me up at night because this issue effects everything.  But I have gotten distracted lately and caught up doing way too much talking about things that matter very little and I need to shut up and get busy.

Every Christmas season I share this song because it is so central to what I believe we are all called to do.

I hope it makes you tear up a bit and then get busy as we do our part to make sure that kids like this little boy have what they need most in life — a healthy family.


Saturday, November 24, 2018

I Made a Difficult Decision


Today I decided to head a different direction with my books.   While it has been a fun 10 years of writing, self-publishing, and trying to sell them, I am going to start discontinuing paper-books as I run out of the latest order.

What?  Why?  You may ask.

Well, I love to write books.   I thoroughly enjoyed writing the books I wrote, particularly fiction.  In fact, I may have another couple novels in my head....and I love pouring  them out..... In fact, both of my novels were written in less than three weeks.   BUT (you knew it was coming).... I HATE everything after that.  My writing needs a lot of editing ..... and I have been blessed to find volunteer editors, but that process is a lot of work for them and I tried doing it without them on this last book and the result was awful.....

I also hate getting them ready for print.  It's laborious, time consuming, and I always end up messing up.   So that process is irritating to me and not fun.

Finally, I really don't enjoy marketing them.   I don't do it enough and most people don't know they are here, so they basically just take up space. I lied to myself and told myself that I could sell them at conferences, but the last two conferences that has proven to not be true.  A lot of work to pack them up, unpack them, and not sell any.

I also don't enjoy keeping track of the orders or getting them ready to ship (although Bart does a lot of that for me.)  I find that all extremely annoying.

The other interesting part is that I actually make more money selling them in digital form than I do in paperback.... with zero hassle.

So, this week I sold the last copy of "Okay, Which One of You Took My Sanity" in written form.   It was a fun book to write and I think it is practical and has great advice and is also entertaining.  But in 6 years I have sold only about 300 books.  

I'm thinking that I will probably discontinue the others when the orders are out as well.  Just getting bored with the whole thing.

I wish that writing this would provide an uprising that would change my mind, but that's basically a fantasy.

I may write another book some day..... but I think I'll just sell it digitally.   If I write another one (and assuming that both my editors are up for it.

All that being said.... my Black Friday Sale continues until Sunday.... so use the coupon Black Friday and you'll save $6.00 on your order.  The online store is here.  You can't buy them cheaper anywhere else.

So, how was that post for a day brightener?  Sometimes I crack myself up.  

I bet you're saying to yourself, "Now that's three minutes of my life that I'll never get back!

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Got any Distractions?

You’ve heard the story.

In Luke 14 Jesus told a parable of a guy who planned a really awesome banquet and invited many guests. Though we don’t know exactly who those guests were, I’m assuming he invited the people closest to him first.  Friends, family, coworkers.   And he probably invited some distinguished guests as well — people who were important and prominent in that community.

But one by one they turned down the invitation because of something they deemed as more important.  One of them had just bought some land.  Another some oxen.   Another one had just gotten married.   They all had things that were more important to them than the banquet.

So the man told his servants to go out and find people who had time for him and for the amazing things that he was offering.  The parable concludes with the man saying those folks that I initially invited will never get a taste of what I planned for them.

I’m sure that for decades theologians have been discussing what this Scripture means, but to me it seems pretty simple:   God has cool things planned for us.   He invites us to join Him at HIs table, where we can “taste and see that the Lord is good.”  But too often we have distractions that keep us from showing up.    And these distractions cost us the privilege of enjoying all of what God has for us.

I have to share this song, simply because it always comes to mind when I hear this parable (and because I occasionally like to send videos that border on annoying just for fun:)


But this video is super powerful.  I’ve shared it last January, but if you haven’t watched it you should…  It gives me goose bumps.  It’s a great way of looking at the table we are invited to and the importance not only of coming to Jesus, but coming together with so many others to feast with HIm.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Got any Strength?


Over the last several weeks I have found myself in a mess not of my own making that involves our youngest son.  In fact, it is a mess that I spent a couple years trying to prevent.   It is a mess that affects many aspects of our lives and has hurt many people.  It is a mess that has kept me off Facebook and a mess that will require me to continuously offer grace, mercy and forgiveness as I ask others to extend that to our son and to us.

For those of you who have been curious, this situation is why I left Facebook and stopped posting things about my fundraiser and my exercise.  I felt like I was wearing a scarlet letter that I hadn’t earned and for weeks I couldn’t post anything online for fear it would be used against us.   

We have been through many situations in our journey where our children have made huge mistakes that have damaged them and messed up their lives.  There have been times when their decisions have tarnished our reputations slightly and there have been people who have been harmed as a result of their choices.

However, this is the first time that the mistake of one of our children has hit so close to home.  It has had an effect on nearly everyone that we know in the city in which we live.  We are heartbroken and grieving and yet because our son is the one who screwed up, we haven’t been able to say much.

I tell you this simply to encourage anyone in the middle of situations you did not create and finds themselves wondering if you’re strong enough to handle the fallout.  You need to know this:   in God’s strength you are.

Slowly but surely, God is giving us the strength to make it day by day, to forgive ourselves for things we could have or should have done to possibly prevent this, and to forgive, love, and extend grace and mercy to our son and anyone else who has contributed to our pain.

This morning as I was driving in to work I heard this song.  I have heard it multiple times but the first line caught me off guard.  It was as though I was speaking directly to God.

“You must think I'm strong
To give me what I'm going through

Well, forgive me
Forgive me if I'm wrong
But this looks like more than I can do”

I have had many thoughts the past two months that are similar to those.   Thoughts like, “We’ve been through a lot, God, but this one — this might be more than I can handle.”

But the song does not end there.  It says:

I know I'm not strong enough to be
Everything that I'm supposed to be
I give up
I'm not strong enough
Hands of mercy won't you cover me
Lord right now I'm asking you to be
Strong enough
Strong enough
For the both of us

The good news is that He has been.  His strength has been made perfect in my weakness (I Corinthians 12:9).  I’m definitely not sharing this to brag or to suggest that I am special.    I have had days where I have stared off into space, replaying this situation over and over in my brain, unable to do even move.  I have absolutely NOT been strong enough, on my own, to make it this time.

But God has.   And if He has done so for me, He will do this for you… no matter what mess you find yourself in. 

Monday, November 05, 2018

Got any Figs?

This parable in Luke 13 jarred me as I listened to it the other day:

Once upon a time there was a man who had a fig tree in his vineyard. He came to it looking for fruit, and didn’t find any. 

So he said to the gardener, “Look here! I’ve been coming to this fig tree for three years hoping to find some fruit, and I haven’t found any! Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?”

‘ “I tell you what, Master,” replied the gardener; “let it alone for just this one year more. I’ll dig all round it and put on some manure. Then, if it fruits next year, well and good; and if not, you can cut it down.” 

At first I asked myself if the point of the story is that if I didn’t shape up and start producing more, I was going to get dismissively “chopped down.”  That didn’t seem right to me…. Jesus seems to be much more about mercy than judgement.

But then I realized that the whole parable is about mercy.  It’s about second chances.  It’s about how even though the Master in this story wants the tree chopped down, the gardener said “wait — give me more time.”   

I also find it a bit humorous that the way that he plans to get the tree good enough to produce he has to cover it in crap.   Ever feel like that part of the story is accurate in your life?

If you look around your life and you’re not seeing any figs, please realize this:  there is a gardener who is on your side — who wants to work on you just a little bit more.   Take comfort in this today…. recognizing that a year from now, the fruit you are going to bear because of the crap you’re covered in today will be amazing.

How’s that for a unique twist on the parable?

This parable n Luke 13 jarred me as I listened to it the other day:

Once upon a time there was a man who had a fig tree in his vineyard. He came to it looking for fruit, and didn’t find any. 

So he said to the gardener, “Look here! I’ve been coming to this fig tree for three years hoping to find some fruit, and I haven’t found any! Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?”

‘ “I tell you what, Master,” replied the gardener; “let it alone for just this one year more. I’ll dig all round it and put on some manure. Then, if it fruits next year, well and good; and if not, you can cut it down.” 

At first I asked myself if the point of the story is that if I didn’t shape up and start producing more, I was going to get dismissively “chopped down.”  That didn’t seem right to me…. Jesus seems to be much more about mercy than judgement.

But then I realized that the whole parable is about mercy.  It’s about second chances.  It’s about how even though the Master in this story wants the tree chopped down, the gardener said “wait — give me more time.”   

I also find it a bit humorous that the way that he plans to get the tree good enough to produce he has to cover it in crap.   Ever feel like that part of the story is accurate in your life?

If you look around your life and you’re not seeing any figs, please realize this:  there is a gardener who is on your side — who wants to work on you just a little bit more.   Take comfort in this today…. recognizing that a year from now, the fruit you are going to bear because of the crap you’re covered in today will be amazing.

How’s that for a unique twist on the parable?

https://youtu.be/m84URv4Sgxc

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Got any Lions?


I was rereading the story Daniel in the Lion’s Den this morning.   We look back at that as if Daniel was so brave heading into the den.  I’m not sure he felt that brave as he headed into the den.

Grant it, he was brave to obey God, knowing the consequences, when he chose to disobey the king, but I don’t know that, when it came right down to it, he headed into the lion’s den confident that God would protect Him.  Maybe he did, but the lions were still big, strong, and probably hungry…. and he may have been very nervous.

I wonder if he was scared the whole time, or if after the first few minutes her realized God was going to protect him.   I can see it both ways — he was in the den for five to ten minutes, and still alive, so maybe he relaxed and said, “God’s got this” and took a nap.   We don’t know for sure.

It could very well be that he stressed out all night long, pinning himself up against the wall of the den keeping an eye on each lion, waiting to see what was going to happen.  He could have been a nervous wreck all night.

So what are our lessons from this story?

1)  Even if we are facing extreme consequences, we need to be obedient.

2)  We have a choice when we are in the midst of a scary or uncertain time, where the enemy is close at hand.   We can relax and remember that God’s got us, or we can fret and pace and hold on with white knuckles waiting for the trial to be over.

The cool thing is that God isn’t going to stop being God if we stop being confident in him and stop having faith.  He’s just going to keep on doing what He does.  But the quality of life that we can have during that time is our choice.

So whatcha going to do the next time you’re thrown into the lions den?  Are you going to immediately recognize that God is protecting you and relax knowing that the trial will some day be over, or are you going be freaked out every single moment, stressing out and questioning whether or not God is going to continue to come through?

THAT is up to you.