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.

 

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? 

 

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].

 

5 Things I learned as a parent

parent_5I’ve learned a few things over the years. Most of all, I’ve learned how to be a good parent.  Note: I did not say I’ve learned to be a perfect parent. I, personally, don’t know many of them and would never claim to be one. I’ve heard that they are on the endangered species list, but don’t quote me on that.  I can never site my sources on that kinda material.

What I’m offering my readers today are my top 5 tips for successful parenting. If these can help even one parent do a better job of raising happy kids, my work in writing this will have been well spent. Thanks for stopping by today, and if you think my advice is solid, please share it with your friends.  We parents have to stick together!

5 Tried and True tips for surviving parenthood

1  Say yes as often as you can, and let your no, be “No!”  Never go back on a NO, and never say NO for convenience sake alone.  Too many parents are wound up in their own lives and ignoring their kids when they need them most. Don’t be one of those guys/gals.

2  Understand that respect is earned, not magically awarded.  Act respectfully toward others and with your kids, and they will do the same.

3  Consistency is Job 1 (because without it, everything else falls apart).  Love consistently.  Encourage consistently.  Stand by your kids consistently.  Provide for their safety every day.  Never forget what treasures they are in your life.  Consistently point them to Jesus.  Never stop praying for them. Be their hero.  Be the same mom and dad for your kids every day and battles over petty stuff won’t be so big of an issue for you.  Kids love boundaries, they just don’t know it yet. 😉

4 Never threaten what you can’t deliver.  Our job as parents isn’t to frustrate our kids or to drive ourselves insane making and breaking rules we, ourselves, put in place.  I’ve found that it’s far better to enforce small, incremental rules and punishments, than to threaten what one cannot deliver.

5 Trust, but verify!  Always get off the couch and check on Jr’s progress. If he says he has cleaned his room, you say, “Show me.”  If she says she did her homework, you reply, “Let’s go over it together.”  Don’t do this to catch your child unaware and bring the hammer of parental accuracy down on their heads. Do it to show them that integrity is important and hard work is noticed and praised in your home.  Always be checking back on what your child is doing.  Always praise faithful service and personally consistent habits of truth-telling.  And remember, you aren’t perfect, so some days you’ll do this better than others.

There you have my top 5 bits of parenting advice.  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

What is your best advice for someone parenting wee ones these days?  What have you done at your house that made parenting a whole lot easier?

Point your kids in the right direction—
    when they’re old they won’t be lost.  Proverbs 22:6 MSG

Love, Love, Love, Love!

If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:2

Excellence does not require perfection.  Henry James 

LOVE

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.  1 Corinthians 13 MSG 

What does it mean to never give up in our love for others?  What shape has that kind of persistent love taken in your life?  Are you still at it…still loving, regardless of the circumstances, and despite the fact that love is not returned to you in kind?  If you are, you are following in your Father’s footsteps.

You are doing what God has called all Christians to do, and here’s the best news about that:

You don’t have to love perfectly to love well!

In Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth he said that love never gives up.

It never quits.

It never retreats.

It never grows fatigued.

It never slumbers.

It never stops wanting the best for that one God pointed to and commanded:  Love Him! Love Her! Love them!

Paul did not say our love would be perfectly given or perfectly received.  He simply said that when we’re in relationship with God and Jesus is powering our love, it will not fizzle out or fade away.  It might be tough to get love right sometimes, and God knows that, which is why He’s given us loads of opportunities to practice, practice, practice this valuable skill.

Today, if you feel a little deficient in your love ability, why not lean in to God and ask Him for another fill-up of His love? He never turns us away when love is on our minds, so go ahead, ask, receive, and then give.  It’s His way…it’s our privilege.

When have you been challenged to love the unlovable?  How did that turn out?

5 ways to quiet the christian mind

How-To-Relax-A-Busy-Mind-Mediation-Part-2-Unlocking-Your-Truth-Episode-UYT085

If you’re like me, your mind never shuts off!  Seriously, I think the only time my mind goes into sleep mode is when I’m attending a boring seminar or listening to some braggart go on and on about his or her life, including people I don’t know, experiences I’ve not had, and the relaying of information I shouldn’t be privy to or care to consider.  I am a thinking machine, and in years past a lot of that pondering power was fueled by fear.

Fear of the future.

Fear of failure.

Fear of trying.

Fear of rejection.

Fear of financial insecurity.

Fear of others  (that they wouldn’t like or agree with me).

Fear of myself (not so confident in my ability to make good decisions).

Fear, Fear, Fear.

I had to find a way to shut ‘er down and get some peace and quiet.

Today, I’d like to share some of the methods I’ve used over the years for quieting my mind.  It probably won’t surprise anyone who knows me well that the first and foremost thing I have done to win the battle with fearful thinking is write.  It is my go-to method for coping with life no matter what I face, but especially when I’m tending to stroll down avenues built on the dark side of town.  My writing in fearful times can take many forms: journaling, list making, writing devotionals, composing marketing pieces for my fellows, and building bible studies.  Occasionally I drive back the fear with fiction.  It can get pretty dark when I’m in that head space, but I’ve found fiction writing a great way to ease up the load that my brain is carrying, and to create a world in my head that is kinder, gentler, and more safe than what I’ve put on the paper.

Writing—it is my sanity, but I want to also share with you other ways I have settled my restless mind, and made that neighborhood quieter by my efforts.  Below, is a list of the top five things I’ve done to quiet my mind.

TOP 5 METHODS OF QUIETING THE CHRISTIAN MIND

  1. WRITING.  I spoke about this one above, but here I will add that the most common way I use this gift from God to quiet my mind is by keeping a journal or tablet by my bedside. At night, when I’m restless, I write down those things I’m thinking about so that I won’t forget them when I wake in the morning. This practice seems to give my mind enough assurance that I will remember important things to lull me to sleep.  Writing is loud mind arrested!
  1. PRAISE MUSIC.  When the writing of a list of urgent thoughts doesn’t quiet my mind at night, I turn to the radio.  I have it tuned to a Christian station, and listen to soothing nighttime music to help settle my mind. I do NOT listen to talk radio at this time, though I confess to loving talk radio. The problem with talk radio when I’ve already got a frantic mind is that it gives me more to think about.  I do not need more to think about when my mind is running a gazillion miles an hour already.  No way!  This is also why I don’t read my Bible when my mind is racing, and why Bible reading is not on this list of quieting influences.
  1. PRAYER.  If writing hasn’t helped, and listening to praise music has failed me too, I turn to prayer.  “Dear God, please,” I say, “take my anxious thoughts and throw them in the farthest sea.”  Not really, although that is a good prayer to pray. Usually mine goes like this, “God, you know I have to get up and go to work in the morning.  Please; sleep!”  When that doesn’t work, I assume God wants me awake because someone else needs praying for, and I turn my attention to them.  That usually does the trick.  I’m not sure if sleep is my reward for doing right during these times, or if the devil just wants me comatose so that I don’t do him anymore harm.  Either way, I’m thankful to turn the volume down in my noggin in those moments. Very glad, indeed.
  1. PRAISE. When my mind is extremely restless, one of the best things I’ve found to help is praising God.  I praise him for limbs that work, for a roof over my head, for food that helps me sleep, and for a family that is a source of joy to me.  Once I begin to praise God for all the big and little things in my life, my fear begins to dissipate. Funny how that works, and so well. It’s hard, really hard to be a captive to fear when all I can think about is the bevy of blessings I have at my fingertips.  Remembering that once in a while is a good, good thing.
  1. ACCEPTANCE.  This is the final and strangest way of all that I use for fighting back fear. It’s totally counter-intuitive and I don’t know why it works so well, but it does.  Once I have accepted that I am completely and wholly exactly where God wants me to be at any given time of day or night (scared or not), I begin to immediately feel less fearful.  I think the trick is to get to the place where I am willing to surrender my control and acknowledge once more God’s sovereignty in all areas of my life.  He’s not just my Daddy, He’s also the one that engineered the universe and keeps it rolling every day.  He knows what I’m facing and He’s already got a protection in place for me. Even when I am unconscious, my angels continue to guard me.  Papa never sleeps, nor does he forget my needs.  Once I realize that, all fear leaves me. Try it. I bet it works for you, too. It’s a hard discipline, and usually the last thing I try, but acceptance that God is in control is powerful medicine for a sick and racing mind.  Better than aspirin, better than liquor, better than almost anything.  Surrender, praise, and acceptance work to quiet a frantic mind.

Well, there you have them, my top five ways for quieting the Christian mind.  There might be other methods for quieting minds that are not in relationships with God, but I don’t practice many of those.  For me, it’s God and me all the way, all the time, and in every circumstance of life.  I am His, and knowing that soothes me in the times when I’m able to remember it.

Do you possess a Christian mind?  Do you have trouble shutting down your over-productive mind?