Saturday, August 30, 2014

Reality Check

      Recently I received an email from a friend.  Among other things, she revealed some struggles and difficulties from her life.  Her words were honest and heartfelt and very personal.  Her words were not accusatory or casting blame on me in any way.  In fact, I wasn't even mentioned.  And yet, the words reached through the screen and smacked me in the face anyway.  I was struck by her words.  I read them several times and was overcome with conviction.


       I can see now, looking back, how actions I took may have affected the trajectory of her life.  Actions that did not involve her directly.  Actions that were incredibly selfish and thoughtless and hurtful.  Actions that she may not even know happened.  I don't know for sure if what I did played any role in her life or not, but I'm guessing it doesn't help.

       In the Book of Matthew, Jesus tell us, "Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar.  First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift" (5:23-24).   This means I need to make amends the best way possible.  Sure, it would have been easier to ignore it or rationalize my position, but that is not the right thing to do.
     It was painful and difficult for me, but I wrote a lengthy letter to my friend.  I came clean and admitted everything I had done back then.  I explained the place where I was in my life at that time, apologized wholeheartedly, and asked for forgiveness.  I don't know if she will be able to forgive me, but I am praying that she does.  Only time will tell, but I feel like I have done what I could to make it right.


     These are not recent events.  These things took place a LONG time ago.  It was even before I became a Christian.    I had never given much thought to this situation before and how my actions could have affected anyone else.  I see it now though for what it was:  SIN.  Let's face it--even though I wasn't a Christian yet, I still knew better than to act like that.  But when I became a Christian, I was covered under the big umbrella of God's grace, right?
      Right.  I am absolutely, totally, and completely covered by the blood of Jesus.  Christ died on that cross for me.  "While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."  (Romans 5:8-9)  I am so thankful that He knew we would mess up over and over and over, and He loved His people enough to die for us anyway.  Even the sins we haven't acknowledged or even recognized are still covered with our acceptance of Jesus into our heart.
     Now that I am aware of the magnitude of my behaviors, I have repented.  I have cried out to God for forgiveness.  I have prayed over it.  My God is a loving and forgiving God; he will remember my sins no more.  (Isaiah 43:25).  He has cast my sins as far as the East is from the West.  (Psalm 103:12).

    One thing that keeps ringing in my head over and over is how my actions matter.  They affect other people in ways that I don't even begin to notice or comprehend.  Every little thing--even things I thought no one knew about--still matter. 

     I am a new creation in Christ; the old has been made new. (2 Corinthians 5:17). I have done my best to make things right; I have admitted my transgressions; and I have been forgiven by God.  I am at peace with this situation now.


    God has used circumstances from long ago to bring me to a new place in my relationship with Him.  
"Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me" (Psalm 51:10).   Not only did I need to deal with my past in a private way, but I feel like God needed me to acknowledge this in a public forum as well.  It has been challenging for me to find the right words here.  I have intentionally left out the nitty-gritty details because I don't feel like anything positive would come from that.  I have tried to be honest and forthright, albeit vague.  I don't know if this post will have any impact on anyone else, but God has used these words to chisel away a piece of me that was old and broken to draw me closer to Him.


     Not every story has a happy ending.  I was prepared to publish this post knowing that my friend might never forgive me, that she would close the door and walk away.  I didn't like it, but I knew that was a very real possibility.

And yet...

I received an email just a bit ago.  The past is, well, the past.  The old friendship is dead and gone.  But we are starting a NEW friendship today.  To my sister in Christ.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Call Me Jonah

I have a confession.  I have been in the belly of a whale for the last three years.  I was told to go to Nineveh, and I went running the other way all the way to Tarsus.  I did not want to go to Nineveh.  I wanted to follow my own path and do my own thing.

Well, actually,  I don't know where Nineveh is or Tarsus either.   And there are no whales in this part of Missouri.

You see, this is not the first time that God told me to start a blog.  He told me that three years ago.      I set up an account, and I froze.  I never wrote anything.

Sort of.

I began a journal where I wrote down times I could remember God working in my life.  I made a list of all the things that I wanted to write about.  The list was pretty long.  I thought I would start posting them once I had them all on paper, once I was caught up.  (That sounds so ridiculous to me now; how could I ever be caught up on God working in my life?  Wouldn't that mean He was no longer at work?) I wrote in my journal pretty faithfully for a while, and then it became sporadically, and eventually, it was not at all.  I, more or less, forgot about it.

It wasn't until I was trying to came up with a name for my blog the other day that I remembered.  I was desperately trying to come up with something catchy, some clever use of words, names, and truth.  I was not coming up anything.  All of a sudden, I realized that I already had my title.  God gave it to me when He first asked me to do this.  I dug out my journal, and there was the title neatly written on the first page: When God Calls My Name.

God called my name three years ago.  Three. Years. Ago.  Almost to the day exactly.  Since I realized that, it keeps ringing in my head.  Three years.  It has taken me three years to be faithful and obedient to what I have been called to do.  Can I just tell you the heartbreak and sadness that I am feeling that it has been that long? It only took Jonah three days in the belly of the whale to figure out that there was no escaping God's call, but it has taken me three years.  Ouch!

Since posting my first entry earlier this week,  I have felt enormously blessed.  There have been a number of people who not only read it but encouraged me to keep going.  A friend shared with me her plans to answer God's call.  The words I wrote touched hearts.  There is joy in that.  More than that, though, is the joy and deep satisfaction I am feeling at doing what God asked me to do.  It took me a while to get started, but it feels good.  I am excited now, and I want that feeling to continue.

Today, I am leaving for Nineveh.  I'll see you there.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

So I'm a blogger...

Recently at church, a friend of mine, Nathan Tuley, shared a message about what God has been teaching him and challenging him with in the last two years.  At the end, he challenged the congregation to commit to something new for God.  He said that the thing that makes you the most uncomfortable is probably the very thing that God is asking you to do.

When I began to pray, I felt like I already knew what it was.  I had already been praying about starting a blog for a couple of days.  I asked God to reveal what He wanted me to do.  As soon as I thought that, I said, "It's the blog, isn't it?"  I felt a warmth spread over me in that moment that seemed to be confirmation.  So, I guess I am a blogger now...

To borrow the words of Jennifer Frisbie, "It makes me want to vomit...but in a good way."  Although I don't do it often, I have always enjoyed writing.  There is something cathartic about pouring myself out onto a piece of paper (or a screen).  But doing it for the whole world to see is something different entirely.  It makes me feel vulnerable--and a little afraid--to share my writing online.

My first hesitation stems from insecurity.  It is hard for me to believe that my thoughts and ideas would be valuable to anyone else.  I know that I am fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14); I know that God does not make mistakes.  But I still really struggle with being me and not comparing myself to other people.

My second hesitation is one of follow through.  I usually start projects well, especially ones that were my idea.  (I will admit that I am a bit more reluctant when starting something that was not my idea.). I am already afraid of not being able to keep up with it.  It is overwhelming to be starting a new journey like this at the same time that I am starting a new school year.  I am praying that this will be something I want to do as time passes, not just another thing to check off of a very long list.  I am also praying that this would be something I could do without taking time away from my family.

Lastly, I am concerned about myself getting in the way.  If I am going to put myself out there and share my stories, I want it to be all for God.  I want people to see a glimpse of Him through things I share.  I pray that He will show me what would impact other people.  I do not want this to become something where I am seeking approval from my readers.  I want to do this to please my God, not because someone might say "Good job" (although it would still be okay if you want to say it.)

So those things all speak to the "makes me want to vomit" aspect.  The good is that I am excited about how God might use me and a blog to reach someone for His kingdom.  Do I have anything good to share?  Maybe, maybe not.  But does my LORD and King have something to say?  I know that He does, and that is the exciting part.