Why Christians Do Weird Things

weirdoIt’s a deadly title, I know, but I’m limiting the topic to one Christian doing one weird thing: namely, me doing “Second Sunday” outreaches.

If you don’t attend my church, Second Sundays is an an afternoon of community outreach.

To give you a little insight, here are some things I hate: people thinking I’m weird, standing out, awkward conversations, risk, and rejection.

Here are some things I love:  people thinking I’m normal and people thinking I’m normal.

So when I find myself yet again in a car delivering homemade bread and church invitations to new move-ins or some such direct activity, I think, “Hmmm. How do I get myself into these situations?  Why am I going to bother some poor stranger and maybe play into the obnoxious Christian stereotype?  Why am I not safely home on the couch right NOW!  Why do Christians do weird things?”

The obvious answer might be that I’m married to Mr. Outreach who never met a stranger and has people sharing the depths of their souls with him at first glance, AND who happens to oversee Second Sunday.  But he never pressures me to go.  The fact is, I actually choose to do the weird thing myself, and here’s why:

I have found that my gut reaction is wrong.  (This is shocking and might I add extremely rare. :))  But in this situation, the predictions of my idols are incorrect: I don’t leave feeling embarrassed and people aren’t turned off.  In fact, some–like yesterday–are super grateful and eager to accept our invitations.

It’s surprisingly faith-building to talk to people about the hope we have.  It’s faith-building to silence my fears and welcome others, showing them God’s love and care.  It’s even faith-building to be rejected and realize I’m experiencing one itty-bitty minuscule part of Jesus’ sufferings.

I’m still a huge wimp, trust me, but I’m learning that what feels right to me isn’t always right, and that sometimes, what feels weird is the best and most meaningful thing I could do.  Who knew?

This isn’t a plug for Second Sundays, although if it works that way, great!  It’s a reminder to ease-loving souls like mine that Jesus is worth more than comfort, that people desperately need him, and that our gut reactions aren’t always good counselors.  Mostly I’ll stick to natural, relational conversation, but every once in a while, being a weirdo for Christ is a great privilege.

 

 

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When Gratitude Just Won’t Leave You Alone

Image result for choosing gratitudeSeveral years ago, Nancy Leigh DeMoss wrote a book called Choosing Gratitude.  I wonder what other titles she considered: “Falling into Gratitude”?  “Embracing Your Natural Bent Toward Gratitude”? “When Gratitude Just Won’t Leave You Alone”?

I wish.

Gratitude is a choice, and not typically one that is knocking my door down.  Because I subconsciously know I’m unacknowledged royalty and should be worshiped and obeyed without question, I’m apt to complain when I don’t get my way.   And when things do go well, I think, “Yeah, now that’s more like it!”  The continuum moves from complaining to satisfied neutrality. Where in the world is gratitude?  Its absence is concerning–and revealing.

Do you identify?

If so, join me in this super-quick gratitude exercise that will reboot our complaining brains. I promise. It takes less than five minutes, so yes, you do have time.  Not to mention, Psalm 103:2 reminds us to: “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.”  

  1. Set a timer for 3 minutes.
  2. Write or type as quickly as you can as many things to thank God for as you possibly can.
  3. When the time is up, run your eye down the list and thank God for each item.

I know it’s easy.  You’ve seen it before.  You can do it in your head.  You really are a pretty thankful person.  Yeah yeah yeah.  Me too.

But there is something about remembering the vast benefits of God to his undeserving people that straightens us out.  It reveals how kind our Father has been to us and ushers us into worship. It moves our eyes off the heap of unsolved problems and onto our generous God and an eternity of promise and joy and blessing.  Not a bad place to end up on a Monday morning!

 

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Let’s Just Say…

Related imageLet’s just say someone is sitting in her messy basement folding laundry and watching the presidential debate.  Besides a giant bowl of ice cream, what does that person need?

How about this reminder from Charles Spurgeon:

Oh, blessed trust! To trust him whose power will never be exhausted, whose love will never wane, whose kindness will never change, whose faithfulness will never fail, whose wisdom will never be nonplussed, and whose perfect goodness can never know a diminution! Happy art thou, reader, if this trust is thine! So trusting, thou shalt enjoy sweet peace now, and glory hereafter, and the foundation of thy trust shall never be removed. 

Sleep tight readers.   If we are in Christ, we trust One who rules perfectly, and the foundation of our trust shall never be removed.

Posted in Trusting God | 2 Comments

Moms, It Doesn’t All Depend on You

Related imageThis post is for parents who obsess. (Moms, maybe I’m sexist but in my experience it’s often us, thus the title.)

Listen, it’s not your fault.  Some of it’s because you love your kids so stinkin’ much.  I’ve been known to say to my husband, “I’m sick of loving them this much.”  What I really mean is I’m sick of having parts of my soul walking around in four different people like some sort of weird Harry Potter horcruxes.   Kids don’t want to be the bearers of parts of their old moms’ hearts, but no one ever asked them, or us for that matter.  It’s just how it works.

Moms get to love their kids more than anyone even wants them to.  They get to be affected by the emotional and physical and spiritual status of their children.  They get to ache, rejoice, laugh, and cry according to the experience of the ones they love.  It’s quite a job description.

And an extraordinary privilege.  God loves us more than we will ever love him.  He absorbed our sin.  He extended forgiveness.  His steadfast love never leaves us.  Reflecting love like that is the honor of a lifetime, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

But it can go bad, and every panicked, worrying mom knows how this works.  Our desire to help and encourage and support slowly morphs into a driving quest to control and manipulate and accomplish things that are only meant for God.  We try to be little mom-bodied gods.  Yuck.

Listen moms, the welfare of our children doesn’t all depend on us.  No matter how hard we push, research, remind, and cajole, we may not be able to get their lives to go from Point A to Point B in a gorgeous OCD line.  And that could be because God’s best path for them is a circuitous, strength-building, scenic one.

I’m exhorting the mirror. (True confession: I wrote this post, worried my head off about something later in the day, and now I’m posting it.)  I really need a mile high sticky note in my face saying…

Moms, God is good and we don’t love our kids more than he does.  I know it blows our minds, but God’s ways are actually better than ours.  It takes a minute for that to sink in to the dry soil of worry and fear, but it’s wonderfully refreshing when it does.

So let’s teach, encourage, pray for, love, nourish, and support these ones we love, as we TRUST… say it with me, TRUST… that God is always good and always in control.

The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me [and them];
    your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever. Ps 138:8

 

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We’ve Been Having Some Fun…

usWe Donohues have been having some fun with www.16personalities.com.  It offers a short personality test that will leave you squirming at how quickly a website can figure out the inner workings of your soul.

It’s really best to do it together so your most beloved can scream out your answers for you and inform you what you’re REALLY like–even if you haven’t figured that out yet. God bless community living.

Some of us (I won’t mention names) ranked extreme numbers in everything and others hovered annoyingly around the middle no matter what the question was.

We did it just for fun, not for massive life direction–only God tells us who we really are. BUT here are some morsels it left me ruminating on (and chuckling about)…

1.God made us somebody.  He didn’t make us a blank slate so we could wisely decide who we would be and then download those traits.  We’re a package he decided on, and some of the ways we deal with life are because that’s just who we are.  Of course we can still obey God, choose responses, and change, but we’re a certain kind of person who reflects the image of God in a certain way.  Let’s embrace it!  If you’re a crier, cry; if a planner, plan; if a thinker, think to the glory of God. We can try to be that other person and stink at it, or live out our calling as US well.  Don’t be like most of us and waste 20 years figuring that out.

2.God purposefully puts us with people called OTHERS.  I live with non-Trishs (mostly).  I’m sure that’s for the good of the universe, but sometimes my life rules seem SOOO obvious and I am utterly perplexed that my dearests wouldn’t agree; that in fact they would have vastly different sets of rules, and they would not deem my perspective on all things wise and good (and perfectly obvious to any thinking human.)  It’s just one of those unsolved mysteries.  What the fun little personality study reminded me was that people who think differently from me aren’t just dumb or insensitive or completely clueless on what’s most important in life, but they are wired differently by God.  They were made for certain tasks that I am not made for, and so trying to make them like me is short-sighted and arrogant. Who they are glorifies God in a way I do not, and vice versa.  So I can embrace and value their opposite perspectives and, with God, smile at the incredible variety of humankind.

3.God’s perfect Word makes the whole thing work.  Stick with me: this is not the obligatory spiritual point.  It’s a call to worship.  If we’re just supposed to jam our 16 personalities together and figure out how to make it work, we’re in trouble.  My personality wants peace (and ironically I’ll get mad about it), his wants to win, hers wants to engage, his wants to avoid, and before we know it we’re a tangled mess of people all trying to build our own personal kingdoms.  Been there.  Here’s what God did: he gave us the rules–the master design.  Now 16 different personalities can love and build and sacrifice and worship in a gazillion different ways and accomplish so much more than we ever could alone because we revolve around him, not ourselves.

And after all that, I remind myself of something ever better:  God knew that I (and my big ‘ole personality) would turn away and have a temper tantrum against his design.  I would have to flail my arms and do it my way.  So he sent his Son to redeem me, and forgive me, and give me strength to start again.  My personality desperately needed a Savior.  Does yours?

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It Doesn’t Matter What “Season” You’re In

four seasons“Seasons” can be a helpful term–sometimes.  It’s a nice way to refer to our different life situations.  Instead of telling a young mom, “Hey, I noticed you have spit-up on your shoulder and a Cheerio stuck to your butt, you can say, “I notice we’re in different seasons!”

Most of us hit a lot of different seasons, or stages, in our lives, and there are specific challenges and blessings that come with each, whether it’s singleness, widowhood, youth, parenthood,  the older years, etc.

The tricky part is that we often make them too big of a deal, letting our “season” define us more than who we are in the body of Christ.

I happen to currently be a wife and mom of four kids.  I love trading funny stories with my peers and helping each other navigate these years.  It’s huge grace in my life, and it’s fun to hang out with a group that “gets” me. But you know who else encourages me–and is nowhere near my season?

My single friend in her 50s.  She’s never had kids but puts faith for parenting into me as she shares how faithful God has been to her.

My kids.  They see the real me. They are learning the Word of God.  Add those two things together and they equal unique insight into my soul.

The older people I work with in The Bridge Course.  They’re still working this hard to serve others when they could be reading in the hammock?  I’m inspired.

A family friend in his 30s–no kids, no wife, but the exact same longing to follow God in hard places and find his identity in Christ.

All the same truths apply to all of us.  We have SO much more in common than we think we do.  We all trek towards the Celestial City together.  Some of us have kids in tow, some serious careers, some diseases, some loneliness, some wealth, some addictions.  Together, we can pull each other out of the swamps, keep each other on the path, remind each other of the goal.   We’re all fighting to trust God and battle sin and love Jesus.  The specific applications change over time, but the essential needs don’t.  I’m a wife and mom, but mostly I’m a Christian needing grace!

When Hebrews 10:24 tells us to “consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,” I’m pretty sure that doesn’t just apply to people who shop at the same stores and have their kids in school together.  It applies to a college guy and a grandmother. They really need the same reminders.  Welcome to the body of Christ: a mishmash of ages and seasons and situations and temperaments that God has chosen to accomplish his purposes.

So let’s stir someone up today who may (gasp!) be in a different season in life.  If you don’t know what to say, just remind them of something that encourages you, and I guarantee it’ll be perfect for them.

 

 

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Tape This to Your Kitchen Window

IMG_4978This is taped onto my kitchen window frame.  You like the designer tape?  I stole it from the girls’ craft box, but whatever.  I needed it in front of my face.

John 15’s “vine and branches” passage can bring to mind charming English gardens and white trellises with lush vines.  I think “dead branch”–which is what I am when I’m not abiding or trusting in Christ.

We run around, trying to get things done, trying to make life “right,” trying to fix all our people and problems and control the whole world–with not a prayer lifted to heaven or humble request for God’s perspective.  Been there.  Today.

That’s why I need this jarring yet encouraging truth:  Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me (Jn. 15:4).

I had a hibiscus on my deck this summer with a slightly broken branch.  It was still in position, but it wasn’t getting water or nourishment from the trunk.  It looked great for a while, living on its own resources, but slowly it just dried up and withered away so I yanked it off and tossed it.

I thought about this passage as I did it, realizing I’m really not going to produce anything of lasting value on  my own, hard as I try.

So what do I find encouraging about this truth? It’s an INVITATION. Come on in, Jesus tells us. Tap into my strength.  Benefit from my life.  Stop pretending you don’t need me.  Your leaves are turning brown. Come on in and abide and find real life! Then watch the real fruit grow.

You’ve gotta read the rest of the chapter because it’s incredible, jammed with sober warnings and lavish promises.  Then we can remind each other that:

We may be able to fake if for a while, but in our own strength, we are withering branches.  As we abide in Christ–trusting him, talking to him, worshiping him, believing him–we find life!  We bear fruit!  We grow and flourish for his glory.

It’s a good fact to have fluttering at my window every morning, designer tape and all.

 

 

 

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Take Care, Square-Jawed Hero

lone rangerIndependence has always been kind of cool in popular culture.  Alone, our square-jawed hero vanquishes the enemy with determined ease, then saunters into the evening fog with nary a backward glance.

It’s romantic in the movies but stinks in real life, and the writer of Hebrews (a mystery man himself) knows it.

“Take care,” he warns in chapter 3.  (Being careful doesn’t seem that cool, but it appears to be important here.)

“Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.”  Falling away from the living God, by the way, is worse than being riddled with bullets or eaten by aliens.  It’s the scariest thing there is.

“But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”

Turn off the fog machine because it looks like there is no lone hero here.  We can’t go it alone; in fact, we’re supposed to be strongly encouraging each other—“every day, as long as it is called ‘today’.”  I’m no Bible scholar, but last time I checked, today was called today.

The deceitfulness of sin, in my experience, often comes in whispers.

You’re not going to make it.

God won’t forgive you for that.

The Christian life is too hard.

God won’t be faithful in this situation.

He only loves you because he has to.

It’s deceit.  And listen Lone Ranger, we’re all vulnerable to it.  Our guns and holsters and masks might look good, but they’re no match for these kinds of enemies. What we really need is each other.

Since today is called today, I’ll take my turn to exhort myself as well as you:

Don’t fall away from the living God.  Don’t buy the deceitful lies.  I know they sound true.  I know it’s hard.  I know it seems easier out there.  But the living God is a million times more powerful and holy and beautiful and faithful than any cheap fix you’ll get elsewhere.  You’re going to make it, not because you’re amazing, but because he’s amazing.  He’ll forgive you, not because you deserve it but because he paid your ransom.  The Christian life is hard but full of deep joy.  God will be faithful in every situation.  And he cherishes you because he is Love.

I hope that refreshes your memory.  Please remind me tomorrow, as I’m sure I will have plenty of deceitful whispers in my ear, and I don’t want to walk into the fog of the future with an unbelieving heart.

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What Temperature Is Your Heart?

thermometer-153138_1280What temperature is your heart?

Ever wonder why some people seem to have warm hearts for the Lord, and yours seems like it’s forming a layer of frost?

I have.  “Man, that person is so godly and in tune with the Spirit.  Must be nice to have all that come naturally.”

That’s about as accurate as glancing out the window in my morning stupor, seeing the joggers and thinking, “Must be nice to jump out of bed and want nothing more than to work out.” I’m sure they would roll their eyes at my assumption that their hard work comes naturally.

I truly am a lazy bum at heart.  I want the harvest without the work.

Dr. Martin Lloyd Jones is great at encouraging—and smacking around—people like me.  Listen to this from his book Spiritual Depression:

So many people say that they would give anything to have but a vestige of the knowledge that the saints had, “If only I had that joy, I would give the whole world for that—why cannot I have the experience of the warm heart?” they say.

Okay, so there’s our question.  Looks like other people ask it too.  Let’s stick with him…

The answer is that they have never really sought it.

Ouch.  (Feel the loving smack.)

Look at the lives of those men and the time they gave to Scripture reading and prayer and various other forms of self-examination and spiritual exercises.  They believed in the culture and the discipline of the spiritual life and it was because they did so that God rewarded them by giving them these gracious manifestations of Himself and these mighty experiences which warmed their hearts.

Here’s how I paraphrase his point: Christian, stop looking out the window at the “on-fire” believers, wishing you could be like that while you munch another potato chip (or check social media, sleep another hour, or shop for one more item you don’t really need.)  Take your icy heart out for some exercise in God’s Word.  Go for a prayer walk.  Memorize Scripture.  Examine your heart.  Take your flabby soul to the gym and after seeking God in these ways, see if you don’t feel a thawing, a pang of new faith and excitement, a hope for more, a fresh desire to be used of God, a growing appetite for worshipping him.  A warming.

This is a healthy reminder to my forgetful soul.  God loves to warm our hearts and meet with us.  He is not reluctant.  So stop making excuses, get off your spiritual couch, and run to him.

And let the thawing begin.

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I Love this Place

Feature ChurchWe just got back from the wedding of dear friends, Destin and Emma.  Held at our church, it was a day of celebrating, singing, crying, laughing, and sweating like crazy during the outdoor reception. Afterward,  I joined people I’ve known for decades–and just months– who were getting even sweatier by clearing tables and stacking chairs.

A couple weeks ago, one of those families mourned the loss of their mom and grandmother at a funeral at our church.  There was singing, crying, and laughing there too, just for different reasons.  Afterward, people cleared tables and stacked chairs.

Tomorrow we’re all going back to the same place for church. Same drive.  Same parking lot.  Same building.  Same flattened grass from the wedding.  Probably the same tables and chairs will be used for an outreach afterward.

What’s up with the table and chair fixation?

They’re symbols of home.

I’ve laughed, cried, shared, encouraged, listened, and repented at those tables and in those chairs.  The rooms of this place hold too many memories to count.  The people are family. Where else have I seen so many lives changed, including my own?  Where have I been more consistently shown God’s grace?  Where else would this crazy variety of people willingly come together and serve each other?

No family, or church, is perfect.  If it were, I’d change that by being there.  But I’ll take the challenges to be in a family like this.   How great that God has built churches like this all over the world.  I love this place, and I hope you love yours.

“Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere” (Ps. 84:10).

That’s always true, but I’m feeling it today. I hope I get to clear tables and stack chairs here until the day I die.

 

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