3 Things I Love About My Church

I love my church!  I know some people say stuff like that and don’t really mean it, but I do. I love the people, the events, the facility, and the leadership.  My church feels like home to me, but there are three things that stick out as most impressive about the place where I worship God.  I wanted to share them with you today.

3 REASONS WHY I LOVE MY CHURCH

1-I get to put my skill set to good use at my church, and I get to try out new abilities.  No one hassles me about not getting it right the first time when I try something new, but most importantly, we are able to laugh together about our fumbles.  This laughing about what doesn’t go according to plan creates a safe space for people like me to try new things.  God gets the glory when things go right, and we learn a lesson about humility and perseverance when they don’t.  I love that about my church!

2-The second thing I love about my church is that the truth of Jesus is taught there in transparent and vulnerable ways.  The people at my church aren’t afraid to say “I’m not sure what that means.”  They also aren’t afraid to say, “Let me get back to you on that one, after I’ve done some research and talked to a few friends.”  That the people at my church don’t act like know-it-alls or VIP gurus, gives me confidence that I can trust them with my soul and the spiritual questions I have.  I love that about my church!

3-The third thing I love about my church is the way it invites the un-churched to join us in seeking God.  We talk a lot about the Visitor in the Room, always with an eye and ear for whatever doesn’t sound inviting.  It’s easy to get in a rut regarding the place where “we” all feel at home. So maybe we don’t pay so much attention to the chair that’s broken, or the faucet that sprays all up and down the front of you whenever it is used.  At my church, we’ve begun a habit of saying to one another, “Would this be a comfort to visitors to God’s house? Would this make sense to them? Would they be able to find this study, or know where to park, or understand where to take their kids during services here?”  I love that we’re actively seeking to remind one another about what’s important.  Visitors are important!  I love that about my church!

What do you love about your church?  Why are you there, and who have you invited to join you making your church, their church?

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Friday Fiction

It’s Friday!  Yay!  Time for another episode of Friday Fiction.  This slice is is brought to you by yours truly, as a result of some fun I had earlier this week as I thought about the sometimes rocky path we trod on the way to Jesus. Enjoy!

Being Patience

She tripped. She stumbled. She fell, and as she did an expletive escaped her lips.

“Ugh! Why is it I can’t control something so personal as my own thoughts and words!” she said. She was angry with herself. Disappointed. “I’ve tried to make my mind fertile ground for God to work in, but it’s not working.”

She didn’t know what else to do. She’d tried prayer, she’d tried meditation, she’d even tried leaving post-it notes all over her cubicle at work. That had gotten some rave reviews.

“Come on, Patience, do you really have to plaster that stuff all over your work space every day?” Jase said.

“Do you think a poster with some holier than thou words on it is going to get you where you need to go?” said Macon.

“This hang-up you have with self-control is bunk,” Maynard added. “I say let me control you, and you’ll get a lot further in this place.” Maynard was her supervisor, for crying out loud. Had he not heard of the #MeToo campaign? Ewww!

Patience wanted to quit the vulgar thoughts, the endless temptations to do what her conscience said she ought not do; her nasty addiction to snide remarks that her pastor had promised would go away once she’d invited the Holy Spirit into her life.

“Why can’t I get some freedom?” she said, staring in the bathroom mirror.

It wasn’t only the swearing.  Her thought life was full of manipulation, anger, and hatred toward others.  So much so, that it made her cringe. She looked at her watch. 10:45pm, her shift would be over in fifteen minutes. Then, maybe she could get some rest from the constant chatter in her head.  It would take thirty minutes to get home, ten minutes to get through her night time rituals, then another five to pray before crawling under the covers and entering sweet relief.

She looked at herself in the mirror and sighed, “We can do this.”

 

 

 

 

Being Patience is an original piece of fiction written by Lori Hoose, copyright reserved.

 

Annie's Party Planning _ partiesbyannieToday’s list includes three important truths I learned about adults by being a kid.

1-Lots of adults are just super-sized kids; impetuous, stubborn, and rude.

2-Adults lie when they say you can have it all, or be whatever you want, but there are still tons of options available to kids.

3-Adults don’t mean to lie about things like the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, and SAT scores; they just want to shield kids from disappointment as long as they can.

What three things did you learn about adults when you were a kid? What one thing do you think is most important for kids to know about the adults in their lives?

Unexpectedly God’s Plan

Those who read my blog regularly know that God recently revealed to me my “Word for 2018”:

Anticipation!

You also know that I’m ubber excited about this word and all it’s implications. I’m pumped to see what the word will mean for me this year, and where all of this anticipation will lead.

After I posted about the word last week and included those few items I was anticipating might occur over the next eleven months, I thought, You know, I didn’t say anything about the anticipation I have for bad things to happen over the course of this year. I almost went back and altered the post, including a mention about the  bad things that might happen this year, but then I thought, No, I’ll wait and write about that later, which is why I’m here this morning.

“The word” has already been useful to me, focusing my attention otherwisely in situations were what’s happened has not been what I expected.

Otherwisely is a word, right? If not, it should be, so I’m using it here.

But back to my point…

I’ve found myself in situations lately where I had expectations for what an event or outing would look like before entering into planned time and space with others. Last night was a good example. I went into a meeting with others, expecting to offer an abbreviated version of my week for them, and then discuss it. I didn’t expect to talk a lot about what had happened during my week, but I did want to process some of it, especially those moments when I had been caught off guard by conversations or delays. One thing I have learned over a decade of doing this sort of thing with others, is to be open-minded. Not about all things, but about most. This meeting was no exception. I expected to open up about what had unhinged me this past week, share a little bit about my feelings, and then listen as others offered support and/or feedback. It didn’t exactly turn out as I had expected. I shared much more than I had planned, and it seemed that God wanted me to say even more as a part of His agenda for this sacred time.

At some point last night, I became aware of two things:

1. The medication I had taken to address back spasms plaguing me over the weekend had left me fuzzy-headed and struggling to concentrate.

2. The meeting was not going the way I had planned.

Anticipation!

My plan was to go to my meeting, listen, learn, share, and leave, all in a balanced manner. What I got was me, sharing way more than I planned, and feeling self-conscious about it.

Anticipation.

What I did to remedy the situation when I was feeling like things were spinning out of control was this:  I prayed. I bowed my head, acknowledged God in the room, and said to him, “Lord, this is not going the way I thought it would go. What is happening here is not what I expected.  Please help me to surrender myself to Your plan, right now.”  I can say this kind of things now, because I finally trust God in a way that is reflected by my actions as trust, and I finally believe His plans for me are always going to be better in the end than my plans.

Before you’re tempted to think that I’m so much better than you in my thinking, read on.  This is a new behavior for me. This is huge! This is not something I have not ever done before. This is forcing me to practice what I preach.  It felt weird when I first started practicing this habit, but somehow over the weeks, I have found a sense of relief in simply surrendering my expectation and intentions to God’s better plan. I believe He knows what he is doing, and I trust Him in ways I never have before.

Anticipation.

I’m sharing my thoughts with you all this morning, because I’m anticipating that there will be times in 2018 when things don’t go my way. Times, when my plans will be upset. Times, when God will have other ideas about what ought to happen, and times when I will be caught off guard by His change of plans. When that happens, I will need another quick surrender session with Him.

Anticipation.

I’m not expecting that everything that happens in my life over the next eleven months will be pleasant or that people will operate according to my needs all the time, but during this phase of my faith journey, I think I’m okay with that. I’m learning to trust God more and more each day, and that trust is opening up a whole new experience in life for me.

What about you? Are you okay with God swooping in and messing with your plans? What are you anticipating happening in your life this year? 

 

5MinuteMonday.GRAPHICjpgIt’s been a while since I posted a 5 Minute Monday challenge on the blog.  I thought today might be a good day to do it again.

With this prompt, I’m inviting you into a five-minute meditation time.  Below, is a prompt for this five-minute escape from the “tyranny of the urgent” that might work for this purpose.  If you have something else that God has been impressing on you to think about, ponder, consider, or meditate on, I would encourage you to focus your quiet attention there.  Otherwise,  I’d be glad to have you read what follows, and ask God what He would have you do about what you’ve read.

I find meditation to be a powerhouse of insight that fuels my intuition and pulls me closer to Papa God every time I do it.  I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject (if you meditate, how you find it, and if you don’t, why you don’t).  I always love reading your comments.  Enjoy!

Today’s 5-Minute Meditation Prompt

What if at the end of the day today, when you’re tired, and failure is your real and honest estimation of what happened over the last 18 hours, you said,

“All I did was fail today.”

That’s it.
Nothing more.
Only that.

No angst.
No flailing about.
No big drama, followed by tears, screaming, or hysterics.

No self-recriminations.

Just…

“I failed.”

Oh, and…

“There’s always tomorrow to try again!”

How would your life change if you were able to think this way? Can you imagine it?

Trouble on the Road

The following is a piece of Friday Fiction I’d like to share with my readers.  I so enjoy writing these each week!  This story is part Frank Peretti, part Justified, and part my imagination, as I understand the Bible and heavenly beings.  It’s an original piece written by me.  Enjoy!  And hey, if you want, leave me a comment.  I love to hear your thoughts, always! 

Car-one-headlight-out

It was that stretch of road that ran deep into the woods and parallel to what was meant to be the old sky lift, that she’d decided to take. That one where the owner of the property had committed suicide before the project was done. The story of his hopelessness and the remote nature of a road no one ever drove made Barbara shiver. Goose flesh rose up on the back of her neck, and she wished she hadn’t come this way. Wished she hadn’t been in such a hurry to get home tonight. Wished she’d ordered take-out, so she didn’t need to rush. She wished she had a co-pilot with her. Someone to talk to, someone to drive away the dread she felt deep in her belly.

She’d been on the road for only a few minutes when the “winker” came creeping up behind her. Winker, that’s what they’d called one-eyed cars when she was a kid. She’d always hated the look of them; disabled, broken, neglected. The car advanced and soon she was able to see the color applied to the old Pontiac on the day it left the showroom floor. Mustard yellow. Blech! It looked nothing like the bright yellow color that comes sputtering out of a French’s Classic Mustard bottle when you squeeze it, but something akin to Grey Poupon. Another shiver ran up her back.

The Pontiac moved closer to her bumper as they drove on in single file, and as it did, the lump in her throat grew. What if someone bent on waylaying her was driving that jalopy? What if the car contained more than one someone? What if they had a gun, a tire iron, or a Rottweiler with them? Everybody carried a tire iron, right?  What if they forced her off the road?

Barbara tried to continue on at the same pace she’d previously set for herself, but found her foot pressing down harder on the gas pedal with each scarred fir tree she passed. The road was getting wider up ahead, and more serpentine in design. On her right side was the formidable mountain face that made construction of a ski resort possible. On her left was a sheer drop of 200 ft, the road having been dug out of rock, and rocks still littering it’s path. She sent up a little prayer, “Lord, please, help me stay calm.” It wasn’t much of a prayer, but it was what came to her in the moment.

The Pontiac grew closer. Barbara’s fear rose two degrees. She got her cell phone out of her pocket and was poised to dial for help. No dice, no signal. She kept the phone in her lap anyway, checking every few seconds to see if the towers could connect with her once more. She knew they couldn’t. The ravine this road ran through was deep. Too deep for cell towers to reach. She was on her own.

Intuition told Barbara that she was being followed by danger, shrouded in darkness, and not in a literal sense. It was spiritual darkness she recognized. Disobedience. Hate. A determination to harm, in exchange for harm done. She recoiled at the thought of it, then heard a distinct voice utter her name.

“Barbara, fear not! You are seen. You are known. You are loved. You will be protected.”

That’s when it happened. Up ahead, in the utter darkness, a light shone. A figure outlined by the brilliance appeared. It was immense. Glowing. Dressed like a member of the U. S. Marshal’s service, with gun drawn.

What in the world! Barbara thought? Too close to the figure now, she couldn’t stop. As she winced and waited for the collision, the “apparition” lifted the barrel of the handgun, and Barbara’s car passed beneath it. She was clear and on the other side of the gunman before she knew what’d happened.  The Pontiac did not fare so well.  It’s driver swerved hard right in order to avoid the marshal, and subsequently collided with the mountainside. Running along the shale ledge outcropping, sparks flew off the door and fenders of the car, turning the night sky Classic mustard bright.

Barbara looked in her rear view mirror. She blinked, then blinked again. Was this really happening, she wondered? She knew she’d have no cell service here, but continued on while holding her phone in her lap, ready to dial 911 at the first sign of a solid bar. She knew she was only a short distance from the place where this road intersected with the one above it, and that reception would be possible once she got there. She hurried.

Barbara recounted all the pertinent details of her travel to the operator once safely at home, and was connected to an officer who asked her to repeat it twice more. She doubted anyone would believe her, but when the story of a brown Pontiac published on the 11 o’clock news that night she was sure she had not imagined the encounter. The newscasters said the car was empty when the police got to the scene. They were asking anyone who knew anything about the crash to contact the police right away. Barbara shivered once more.

 

 

Trouble on the Road is an original story, written by Lori Hoose, copyright protected.

N A WORD

During the month of December, I was seeing evidence all over the place that others were picking a word–a single word—that they were set to use to accomplish one of three goals during the next twelve months.

Either they were hoping to be INSPIRED by this word, FOCUSED AND FORWARD MOVING because of this word, or LITERALLY DEFINED by this word.  I wanted in!

I kept thinking and thinking about what my “word” would be.  Others kept saying they were waiting to hear what I’d choose. One even said she couldn’t wait…  Here’s the thing, though,:  I’d picked a word before, in previous years, and felt like it didn’t do me much good.  Sure, I thought about it once in a while, and when I’d see some object that fit the description of the word I might pick it up. I might take a snap shot of the object with my cell phone. I might post it to FB with some witty quip beside it. I might even buy it, if it was cheap enough and disposable (I’m practicing a minimalist lifestyle these days, so I don’t do trinkets or souvenirs anymore), but it never really was meaningful to me.

It just was.

What I was looking for in a word for 2018 was direction from God.  I didn’t want to pick a word this year, I wanted the Divine to pick one for me.  I wanted to latch onto the word that He said would be significant for my 2018, not one I just picked at random or from a hat. Note: I’ve been known to do similar things, like coin tosses to decide important choices in my life before.

Then it happened!

Today!

As I was working on my homework in the Defiant Joy workbook, I wrote the word: Anticipation.

A light bulb was turned on in my head.

Fireworks went off.

An explosion exploded.

A bell rang, loud and clear.

I knew right away.

This was my word!  Anticipation!!

I tried it on for size.  It fit!

A.N.T.I.C.I.P.A.T.I.O.N.

I AM SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO EXCITED AT THIS POINT, I CAN HARDLY STAND IT.

This year, I am anticipating all sorts of things. Among them…

Flying again—Delta Airlines, here we come!

Taking several traveling adventures with my hubs: NH, VT, Lake George, Lancaster, Aruba???  Who knows?

Beginning a new Life Group in my neighborhood.  Thinking of calling it: “Grubs On!”  Catchy, right?

Maybe, even, perhaps, putting a devotional together from past writings I have in a can and talking to a publisher about bringing ‘er to print.  Wow, wouldn’t that be cool?

Oh, yes, I am ANTICIPATING all over the place over here!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Isn’t it funny how you’ll wait and pray, and wait and listen, and time goes by, and then, WHAMMO, the answer is born?  What is your word for 2018?

Important information for those who want to think accurately about our opposition_ Satan.

Last night’s session of The Healing Journey included a primer on Satan.  It was a good reminder of his origin story and how God has dealt with his particular brand of fake-news over the years.  Today, I created a graphic that lists just a few of the facts about this agent of opposition,and thought I would share it here, first.

About Satan, CS Lewis said:

“There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.”  -CS Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

There was a time when I had an excessive interest in the spiritual forces in this world. Not just God, but angels and demons.  At an early age, I could feel other powers at work in our world; believed that unseen agents were at work all around me.  I wanted to know more.

From a very early age, I remember a visitation from one of these agents. I was sick , when a female unknown to me appeared at the head of my bed.  She didn’t say anything, but calmly kept watch over me while I recovered.  I remember her vividly, still. I can see her face and clothing as I type this.  The appearance of this woman (angel?) has stayed with me over the years. I don’t think about her often, but whenever the subject of angels comes up there she is again, reaffirming me of the presence of other agents in our world.

Last night, in The Healing Journey class, we were reminded that angels are real and some of them are working for God, while others work against Him.  Cyndy Sherwood, the creator of our curriculum highlighted the fact that at this time in history Satan is “flipping mad at God,” and he’s taking that anger out on us.  I agree!  I see too many instances of hard times experienced by good people to not believe there is something going on and we are the target of it.  But these days my fears have been replaced by hope, because I know while Satan may be strong, but he is not stronger than God.

He’s not smarter than God.

He doesn’t have more power than God.

He’s not able to work within us, like God. Not Christians, any way.

He’s being defeated in our lives every day through God and His grace.

Today, we benefit from understanding our enemy and calling on God to defeat him.  We cannot be passive in dealing with him, but neither should we attempt to engage him on our own.  God is the one we need to cleave to and call to when the fiery arrows of the evil one are being flung in our direction. He knows our enemy better than we ever could.  We need to trust our victories to God, and remind Him in our prayers of that hope Jesus had for us all; not that we would be taken out of this world, but that God would protect us from the evil one (John 17:15).

Amen, may it be so, Lord, Jesus!

When have you been hassled by Satan in the past?  How have you fought back against his demolition work in your life?

 

 

training_camp222

My dear child, don’t shrug off God’s discipline,
    but don’t be crushed by it either.
It’s the child he loves that he disciplines;
    the child he embraces, he also corrects.  Hebrews 12:5
 

Have you ever gone through a tough time and blamed it on God? Me, too. 

When we experience difficulties and are tempted to think God is bringing them into our lives to punish us, we need to think again.  God doesn’t operate that way with his children. He doesn’t store up our misdeeds in a bucket and then throw his wrath on us when we least expect it.  Jesus came and took all our sins on him long ago, so that what we might experience from the Father would be only love.  Granted, that love sometimes comes in the form of correction or discipline, but it is never meant to crush us…only to teach us.  

Correction from Papa is training and preparation that will benefit us down the road.  If we can think of it that way, we can hold onto joy even as we learn hard life lessons.

 Today, would you pray for those who are experiencing difficulties?  

Would you remember those who feel like the hard will never end?

Will you pray for all those who love Jesus, but are becoming weary with the struggle?

Pray that God’s children in your church and community can identify their times of correction and discipline as training, and not build resentments toward God because of them. Pray for Spiritual acuity and moral fortitude to help us see things like hardship in the right light.  And, remember, it’s God’s love for us that signs us up for training class—never His wrath.  

When have you been deep in the thick of it and had God speak to your soul, “I know this is hard, but later, you will thank Me?”   When have your kids thought you too harsh, when what you knew was that they really needed to toughen up and that it was better you teach them this lesson, than the world?

Maddie and The Mustard Seed

Maddie sat cross-legged on the mat she’d been assigned and looked down at her milk carton.  The prickly hair-like blades of grass growing out of her individual garden were shorter than those of her classmates.  She didn’t care.  Nothing she ever did matched what they did.  She was strange, they said.  Clumsy, and her hair was matted.  She knew all this but didn’t care a wit.  She knew she was special, and that’s all that mattered.

“Maddie, you need to put that back now, and sit down.”

She complied, not just now but every time Mrs. Clark asked something of Maddie.  She loved her teacher. Loved coming to school. Loved Mr. Draper, the janitor, and Mrs. Chambers, the school nurse.  She even loved Ms. Sweet, the principal, who she saw often enough to have struck up a friendship with her.  Maddie especially loved Lulu, the cafeteria lady.  She was the one Maddie sat with each morning, while she ate her breakfast and talked about her life as the only child of a rich venture “capulus.”.   They’d learn all about venture capitalist at the beginning of the school year. How they loaned people money, because they had a lot, and how they made dreams grow. That’s what Mrs. Clark said, that the money “adventure” people gave to other people made dreams grow.

Maddie wanted her dreams to grow. She wanted it real bad.  She wanted to live in real life with the things she pretended about her real, real life.  She talked about those things with Lulu at breakfast each day of the school week, then she talked about them a little more on Sunday, with Pastor Jeff and Mrs. Jeff.  She talked about real houses, and real kitties and puppies running down the halls, and crawling up in her lap and sleeping contentedly for hours.  She talked about real dresses and shiny black shoes, and lacy blouses, and suspenders.  One of Maddie’s favorite books was about Eloise, and the fun, fun, fun she and nanny had together. Maddie dreamed about having fun.

As she dutifully took her milk carton back to the ledge where all the other kids had placed theirs,  Maddie felt grateful.  She touched the piece of jewelry that hung from a chain mid-chest, under her sweater and close to her heart.  It was a tiny glass bubble ringed by gold, and inside the bubble was an itty bity seed.  Mrs. Jeff said it was a mustard seed, the littlest of all seeds, and that from it grew a tall, bushy plant.  She said the seed was to remind Maddie that big things can grow from a little faith. Maddie was sure it was true. Mrs. Jeff never said anything that wasn’t true.  A smile started to grow on her face, as Maddie thought about the seed.  “See,” a voice within Maddie said, “even smiles grow when you have a little faith.”

 

 

[This Friday Fiction is an original story, written by Lori Hoose, copyright protected].