Monday, February 28, 2011

Almost a Prayer Warrior!

OK, here's the last bit on prayer! Tomorrow we will return you to your regularly scheduled programming.



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 It seems like a very impersonal thing, I know, but you have to start somewhere. One of the problems when someone starts a new program—be it exercise, dieting, whatever—is they expect to immediately be able to run a marathon or lose 10 pounds the first week. When they don’t, they get disappointed, and they quit. The goal here is not to quit. If you start out slowly and make an effort to simply be consistent, you’ll have a better chance at sticking it out in the long run. When you have your prayer time (early in the day!) set a timer. After a while, you won’t have to, but it will help at first. Try for five minutes the first week. If you go over, that’s OK. Just try to fill up five minutes with prayer. Go for seven the second week; the third week, try for ten. See if you can work up to 15 or 20 minutes at a shot.

Yes, that sounds like a lot of time. Once you’ve started praying and building your relationship with God, soon you’ll be just busting with stuff to tell him during prayer time. You’ll wake up in the morning thinking, “I can't wait to talk to God today!” Granted, there will be some days where you won’t pray for 20 minutes, but there will be some days when you won’t even stop at 30 minutes. The more you and God get to know each other, the more you’ll have to talk about. Speaking of which...


A lot of prayer is us talking to God. But don’t forget that prayer is really a conversation. Sometimes we’re so worried about what we’re going to say next that we forget to listen for God’s reply. If, while writing in your prayer journal, you ask God a question, give him a second to answer. Sometimes he will, sometimes he’ll wait for you to give a little more explanation. If you don’t hear him, ask again another day. Sometimes in my prayer journal, I can hear God so clearly and so frequently during a single prayer that I write it out like a script. Other times, he’s so quiet that I make just a few notes in the margin. I try to have that conversation again when I’m a little more focused or more willing to listen.


God made you, which I’m sure you already know. He likes you. He made you the way you are. You don’t have to use any fancy language or fifty cent words to impress him or to make your prayers more effective. I mean, if your goal for the day is to use “ubiquitous” in a sentence, go ahead and use it in prayer. God gets the joke. And that’s exactly it—God has a sense of humor. Prayer doesn’t have to be serious 100% of the time. It should be sincere and from your heart 100% of the time, but if your heart is light and you’re feeling goofy, tell God why. It’s OK to laugh or cry or whatever during prayer as long as it’s all you and all from the heart. God wants to get to know the real you, just like you should want to know the real him.


By “everything,” I mean everything. Sometimes we only pray for others. We don’t tell him what we need because we think it sounds selfish. Well, maybe you will sound selfish. “God, I want a bigger house and a new car.” That does sound kind of selfish. But if that’s what you're thinking, say it. God knows that’s what you want, anyway. You’re not keeping anything from him by not putting it in your prayers. Don’t tell him in the hopes that he’s going to deliver you the keys to your dream home and car the following day, but tell him in the hopes that he’ll help you sort out those desires, help you figure out why you want what you want, and help turn your heart toward the right things. Only when you admit what’s in your heart can he begin to change it, and that’s what this whole process is: allowing God to change you.

The last item on prayer:


 I’m just now learning this lesson, actually. So many times I’ve chickened out on praying for what I really want so I won’t be disappointed when God doesn’t give it to me.

Don’t get me wrong; Santa Claus, he ain’t. But that doesn’t mean he can’t (or won’t) deliver. What’s that verse in James? “You don’t have because you don’t ask.” Sometimes we decide what God can do. We put him in a little box and only let him out when we think he can “handle” what we want. When he’s given us the “right” answers on something before, we’ll give him another go at it. But God can do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine. So once you decide to tell him everything, make the decision to put some confidence behind your prayers.

A few months ago, I was supposed to have back surgery. I was terrified. Beyond terrified, really. I prayed for God to take my fear. I prayed harder than I’d ever prayed before. And he actually took the surgery away. My surgeon cancelled it because I was sick. Crazy, right? But God answered in a big way. For some reason, that answer gave me confidence to pray more boldly. My surgery was rescheduled for a month later. My husband and I (and some of our prayer warrior friends) started praying for complete healing. For the first time, I didn’t hesitate. I didn’t doubt. I thought, “God can do this!”

And he did.

Now, I don’t know what my back looks like right now. I haven’t had another MRI or x-ray. But I can tell you that I have no pain—none—and all the symptoms that prompted my surgeon to suggest I go under the knife are gone. Gone. And I know in my heart that it’s because I prayed with confidence. I prayed without that nagging voice in the back of my head saying, “What if he doesn’t do it? What if I’m disappointed? Maybe I should be praying for something else.” I’m telling you, praying with total confidence enables God to work in ways you never thought possible.

The main thing is just to pray. Get it into your schedule and get it done. At first, it will seem like a chore, and while that’s not how it should be, it’ll get you to a place where the more you pray, the more you’ll want to pray. It’s true! Just ask God. Right now is a great time. In fact, anytime is a great time, really. He’s on the line 24/7. Go, Future Prayer Warrior! Go!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Friendly Friday: Thoughts for the Road...Less Traveled

Today's Friendly Friday star is Angie from Thoughts for the Road...Less Traveled. I'm surprised that she's a new blogger—she seems like a pro! Her posts are always very insightful and honest, and she's really got an amazing heart for God (especially considering her past, which she shares a little of with us here). She shares lots of really great scripture, and she still manages to be entertaining!

Hmm. Things I need to work on.

I can really relate to what she shares here today. So please show Angie some love here, and then head over to her blog to read some more of her fabulous, thought-provoking, inspiring writing!

If you're interested in posting for Friendly Friday (and I know you are!), shoot me an e-mail at TheLazyChristian@yahoo.com!

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I am so happy for the honor of guest posting today. Rachel has become an inspiration to me, a new blogger. When I asked what she wanted me to write, Rachel told me to share whatever I had been struggling with lately. I thought about that for a few minutes—seconds really. I knew exactly what my struggle has been lately—and always. As far back as I can remember.

Control.

I know I struggle with it. I know I desire to have it—more of it, all of it—all the time. Can you sense why this may be an issue for someone who wants to be fully surrendered to the will of God? I feel like Gollum (from Lord Of The Rings. I frequently show my NERDness with these sorts of illustrations) when he gets all crazy wide-eyed at seeing "THE RING," and says, "We wants it, we needs it. Must have the precious. They stole it from us!" If you have seen the movie, you know that this little creature goes straight-up berserk when he loses that ring.

That is how I feel when I am not in complete control of any given situation. I can rationalize (rational lies) this compulsive need if I try hard enough. I was married to an abusive drug addict that tried to kill me—frequently. So to someone who had no control over whether they were getting beaten or held hostage, control can seem like something they want to get and keep.

More recently, my controlling ways have kept me directly outside of God's will. I served as a worship leader at my church for two years, then stepped away from that due to stress, a bit of a burn-out, and feeling called into another area of ministry. For a few weeks, I was blissfully happy not having to deal with people not showing up to practice, finding songs to sing, putting together PowerPoint presentations, etc.

Then there was this gnawing ache within me. I felt like my puppy died. I was mourning the loss of a ministry that God had gifted me for. I will not deny that I needed a break, time to gather my thoughts, focus on my relationship with God, restore my soul, and renew my love for music and worship, but I do not believe He intended for me to quit the position like I did. Now it has been a couple of months, everyone is asking me when I will sing again, and one of the leaders that took over for me left our church. I can feel God leading me back to the worship team. I called up the pastor, he seemed thrilled at the idea, and spoke with the group I used to lead. Great! They wanted me to come back! I went to church the next day feeling pretty good, happy to get back into the swing of things, and discovered that my team is following another leader. (Can they even do that?) My role is being filled by someone else. She is arranging the practices, selecting the music, and—dare I say it?—telling me what to do!

*sigh*

I actually went home that night, after telling them that I wasn't ready to come back after all, and told my husband that if I couldn't be in charge, then I didn't want to play—errr, sing. As soon as the words left my lips I was so ashamed. Lord help me, I know that this isn't about me. I do not want my life to be the "Angie Show, Starring Angie!" I want to live as a humble servant whose life reflects Christ.

Humble—wow. Isn't control all about pride? I don't want that. I don't want any part of it. I know what happens after pride shows up. Control is something that you can never have enough of, like an addiction. I am going to have to surrender (relinquish control) of my control issues to God and live every day trying to kick the habit. I guess this means that when I show up for practice next week I will be eating a big fat plate of humble pie.

And I intend to relish every second of it.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Warning: MC Hammer Reference Enclosed

It's hard to think of interesting titles for prayer stuff. Especially when I'm having multiple postings on prayer. Day two and I'm out of ideas. So we'll just let MC Hammer do the talking:

We got to pray just to make it today.

True that, Hammer. True that.

But prayer is hard to fit in and even harder to be consistent with. Here are some basic strategies for getting more prayer into your life:

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I’m not saying you need to get up hours ahead of time. If you usually get up at 6:15 a.m., get up at 6:00 a.m. instead. Praying early in the day will do a few things for you:

1. You won’t spend all day thinking, “Ohhh, I’ve got to fit in time to pray today.” Dreading prayer is really not the intended effect here.

2. Your whole day will get off to a good start, and God will be on your mind throughout the day. You’ll make better choices and be more willing to listen to the prompting of the Holy Spirit.

3. Since God is on your mind, you’ll be more apt to talk to him at random during the day. You’ll end up getting even more prayer time in simply by talking to him throughout your day. Prayer doesn’t have to be getting down on your knees twice a day and twice a day only. Chat with God. Keep in constant contact with him. “Pray without ceasing,” as Paul would say.


O.K., you’ve got a time down. Now what?


A prayer journal is a marvelous, marvelous thing. Instead of just praying in your head (which is what often leads me to fall asleep), write it all down. You’ll be surprised at how much easier it is to focus on your prayers when you’re writing them down. The process of sending thoughts down to your pen helps block out the noise of your other thoughts. No, you don't have to be a writer to write in a prayer journal. No one else is going to read it. It’s also a great tool of faith because you can go back and read previous prayers to see how they were answered. You’ll be amazed at how God works. Here are some tips:

1. You can write in any format you want. Mine tends to look like a letter, even with a “Love, Rachel” at the end. Anyone can write a letter. I’m also not opposed to typing into a Word document or blogging on a protected site, if that’s your preferred medium, but don’t let the world read it—you’re not likely to be as honest with God or yourself if you know there’s another audience. I prefer old-fashioned pen and paper myself. Having the pen physically in your hand helps keep your mind focused. You’re less apt to let your thoughts wander, and I have yet to see someone fall asleep in the middle of writing something down.

2. When looking for a prayer journal to write in, don’t get just any old spiral bound thing. Get something awesome. Something that calls to you. A notebook or journal that you just can’t wait to write in. You can even look online and find out how to make interesting covers for composition books. Then when you fill up your book, your cover just moves to the next one. Mine is made out of an old, rainbow-colored silk tie (directions are provided in the appendix). I can’t imagine what man once wore that tie, but it makes my notebook bright and colorful, and I love to look at it. And when I look at it, I feel the urge to write in it. Whether you prefer something stylish and leather bound or a three-ring binder you decorate yourself, get something you can’t resist.

3. Write with a great writing utensil. It doesn’t have to be an expensive one, just one that writes perfectly. You know what I’m talking about. We all have that favorite style, favorite ink color, favorite grippy thing. Gel or ink? Rollerball or felt tip? Pencil or pen? If it’s a pencil, mechanical or wooden? If you find something you like, get a couple of them so you’ll always have one on hand. Find a place to attach it to your journal or keep it near your journal. That way your excuse to God will never be, “I couldn't find a pen.” Worst. Excuse. Ever.

4. Find a place (inside the front cover, the first few pages, etc.) to put prayer requests. I’m terrible at remembering to pray for people (apologies to my friends and family who are reading this), mostly because I just forget what the requests are. You can affix sticky notes to the inside cover and then take them off once the prayer has been answered (or if you need to change it). You can write them down on the first page and cross them out as you go. You can write them on your current page (which is helpful as a date reference to when you started praying for that thing), and then look back each day to see which prayers have been answered and which ones still need your intercession. If you choose to keep an electronic journal, some computers have sticky note widgets for the desktop that are very helpful for keeping track of prayer requests. Don’t forget that once a prayer has been answered, it becomes a praise—God likes to hear those, too!

Excellent! Now you’ve got something amazing to write in and with, and even a few things to write about. Go for it! Oh, wait. We’re lazy. We need more help.

Since tomorrow is Friendly Friday, why don't you spend the weekend getting these things in place? I'll give you a few more helpful hints on Monday. 

But whatever you do today and in the coming days, just pray. Find the time. Make the time. You won't be disappointed.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A Starting Place

Thank you all for your comments over the last two days. This whole epiphany thing is crazy beans! Feeling your personhood is about to change is weird. And hard. And difficult to comprehend. 

I've gone through many times in my life where it feels like my faith is floundering. As in, I feel like a flounder, flopping around on a sand bar with no clue how to get back in the water.

Is that where the term "floundering" comes from, or have I misunderstood that my whole life? Hmm.

Anyway. When I'm off track, I don't always know how to get back on it. I need a starting place. I know we're all at different points in our faith walk, but I thought some basics might be helpful for someone out there! 

Prayer is the best starting place for anything. Everything. Ever. If you feel God working and you don't know what to do, pray. If you feel lost, pray. If you feel too tired to pray, pray. I know it's not always my first resort, but it totally should be. So, for the sake of this primer, let's start with the best place to start: prayer.

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I can’t tell you how many times I’ve started to pray and said this exact prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you so much for this day and thank you for all the blessings you’ve given me.

I’d like to tell you it gets more interesting from there, but it doesn’t. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this prayer, I guess, but what does it tell God? “Eh. I don’t really have time to be specific, and I don’t want to put the energy into coming up with something different to say every time I pray, so this is what you get. Sorry, Lord.”

He feels the love, I’m sure.

Apart from boring prayers, my other downfall is trying to pray right before bed. I start with my boring prayer, and it certainly doesn’t get more interesting once I’ve gone to dreamland. Sometimes I’ll wake up and try to pick up in the same sentence during which I dozed off, as if God wouldn’t notice that I fell asleep there for a moment. I’m sure he realized that my end of the line went dead.

The purpose of prayer is not to just do our Christian duty and say something so God knows we haven’t forgotten about him. It’s not simply a go-to when we’re in a bind. Prayer is how you form a relationship with God. And how do you form a relationship with anyone? By spending time getting to know each other. “But God already knows me! He knew me before I was created, even! The Bible says so!” Yes, the Bible says that. And he does know you—better than you think. But he still likes to hear things directly from you. He wants to know about your hopes and your fears. He wants you to ask him about them—how to achieve those dreams he’s placed in your heart, how to overcome those human fears that only he can master for you.

I have to say that some of my most productive prayers have come when I don’t want to pray at all. I start off with, “I don't want to pray right now, Lord.” Then I begin to tell him why, just in case he wanted to know my excuse for not praying, but it becomes this whole other thing. Suddenly I spend 45 minutes dumping on God and telling him what’s been going on in my life and how I feel about it. Sometimes I even cry just because I'm opening myself up so fully before God and letting all this pent-up junk go. And it all starts just because I stop in to tell him I’m not going to pray. He wants those moments with us.

But what about finding a moment to have a moment? Some of us are so busy with the rest of our lives that that’s how we become lazy in our faith. Prayer, along with studying the Bible, tends to head to the bottom of our to-do lists when life gets hectic. We get so tired or have so little focus that we can’t possible spend a few minutes with our eyes closed, lest we fall asleep or let a hundred other things into our minds. There are ways to combat this, though.

And I'll share some with you tomorrow!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Rachel: Part 1

After yesterday's blog post, I decided to follow the advice my dear, wise friend Rachel left in the comments:

Journal - and not just your prayers, but have actual conversations with God.

Okey-dokey!

After my son fell asleep at nap time, I sat on the floor of my bedroom. It was silence. It was solitude. It was something I'd never attempted at home. I tried one of the visualization exercises. I asked God to show me who he made me to be.

He said, "That's too much right now."

I said, "OK, then show me just one aspect of who you made me to be that you want me to know."

He said, "You have a voice."

Not just the ability to speak. I knew that. I talk a lot. But he specifically pointed out to me that when I talk, people will listen. This idea that I have that people automatically overlook what I say—it's wrong.

I made sure to get out my notebook so I could jot all this down.

I asked about my platform. "Do I just use my voice in my blog? Are you brokering a book deal for me, God? Where should I be using this?"

And then God, proving he has a sense of humor, said, "Rachel, Jeremiah didn't have a book deal."

Ha! Touché, God.

He said that using my voice to share my faith—my struggles, my growth, even this conversation—will point people toward him. Even if it's just sharing with people in my life and not writing it down anywhere, my faith will bring glory to God.

I asked him how I can use my voice for him and lose the misconceptions to which I've fallen prey. His answer was clear:

Seek me. Find me. Know me. You can't be my voice unless you know me. And the better you know me, the more the old understanding of yourself will fade. Then I can show you more.

I told him I was sorry that I haven't done that enough. He said, "Don't be. Just change it. Fix it so I can show you more. You don't need to be 'fixed;' you're not broken. You're just misinformed."

Funny, because I feel broken. And we use that word so much—that we're a broken people who need God to put us back together. I wonder how much of that is really just misinformation about who we really are, since it seems Jesus already did most of the repair work. Hmm.

I asked him to tell me what else I needed to know, but he told me that was plenty for one day, and that I needed to go rest in this knowledge and process it. They don't call him the Only Wise King for nothin'. So here I am, sharing it with you and processing it all.

I heard this conversation as clearly in my heart as if it were someone sitting across the table from me. I guess what you can take from this is that God will communicate with you. Doesn't matter who you are, doesn't matter how well you currently know him. If you need him to talk to you—to give you guidance or answer questions—he will. You just have to make room to listen.

I'm going to go process some more. I was just really excited to share this with you. Have you had an experience with God like this? Share it here so our faith can speak volumes about God's willingness to interact with us.

We don't have to be Moses on a mountaintop. We can encounter God even on the floor of our (kinda messy) bedroom while our kid naps. Isn't that amazing? It's amazing.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Where I Live

We had a retreat at church this weekend for those of us in the Worship and Creative Arts Ministry. God showed me something very interesting about myself, and I can't help but share it with you fine people.

One of the exercises we did was an hour of silence and solitude. Time to spend encountering God. In silence. And solitude. An hour.

Longest. Hour. Ever.

It wasn't because I was bored. I wasn't. We were given some exercises to do—visualizations, Lectio Devina, intercessional prayer. It was intense. I hadn't really done something like this before. Honestly, by the end of it, I was drained. To the floor, drained. Emotionally, spiritually.

So I wasn't bored, I was exhausted.

What God revealed to me is this: I have very little idea who I am.

Truly.

I'm a visual person. I have provided this handy-dandy diagram for your consideration:

I have always been told what I am by other people. A few nice things: I have book smarts, I have good intentions, I'm a good mom, I'm a good wife, I'm a good actor/dancer. But more not-so-nice things: I have no common sense, I don't say anything useful, I'm lazy, I'm an airhead, I'm mean, I can't sing, I can't take care of money, etc.

Some of these things came from close people, like family members. Others came from friends and acquaintances along the way. 

I have very few opinions about myself, really. Instead, I take what other people say about me and apply it as if it were truth. Then I make some other assumptions (i.e., "Oh, she must think I'm a dummy for saying that. I'm a dummy.") and apply those as well. 

I try so hard to get out from under the weight of these perceptions (or misconceptions) that I come off as—well, trying too hard. I do end up saying dumb things because I'm trying to impress people. I'm trying to be a better me than the one that exists.

But I've realized I need to get away from this thinking. I need to get to what God thinks of me. All these people from my past will pass away, as will their thoughts and ideas---including what they think of me and who they think I am. But God is permanent. His ideas are staying around for eternity. What he thinks matters, and it should matter more to me.

So now I need to figure out who God made me to be and get out from under the pressure of my past and who I've tried to be. And I guess I need to start from scratch. I'm not sure how to do that. 

Anyone else been in the same boat? Because I'm going down with the ship and resurfacing as The Rachel God Made Me to Be.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Friendly Friday: Midwest MOMments

Today's Friendly Friday post is a midwesty gal like myself: Jennifer at Midwest MOMments. I'm kind of new to her blog, but she's a mom blogger who isn't afraid to share what she's really thinking. She does some fiction writing with The Red Dress Club meme, as well, so she's got a variety of content to offer.

So here she is! Be sure to pop over to Midwest MOMments to show her some love there, as well!

If you're interested in having a Friendly Friday feature, e-mail me at TheLazyChristian@yahoo.com.

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Strong Enough
© Midwest MOMments


I really believe that God doesn't give you more than you can handle. Though I've had my share of tough times, I feel I've been luckier than average when it comes down to it. One of my best friends, let's call her Sue, has not had the same kind of life story. Sue is one of the most committed Christians I know. And she has been through the wringer. Her mother had lung cancer and passed away when we were in our early 20's - after Sue was married, but before her girls were born. I can't imagine not having my mom around to help with advice and assistance with our kids. Then a few years later, Sue's husband cheated on her (with his step-sister), and the couple I thought would NEVER get divorced, did. She has found a wonderful new husband, but he has a lot of health problems, so they struggle with the medical bills every month. But she is still so thankful and devoted. And I'm in awe of her. Because I think I might be pretty angry with God for putting me through so much. 

In fact, if I'm totally honest with myself, I keep God at arm's length at times simply because I don't want Him to think I'm strong enough to handle that level of struggle.

During my post-college, single years, I thought if I could just find the right guy and get married, it would be so much easier to be "good" because there wouldn't be so much temptation. The grass is always greener, right? There's plenty of temptation on this side of the fence, just different kinds. Plus now I feel like it's even harder for me to wholly put my trust in the Lord - I have so much more to lose. 

In my pre-marriage days, I lived in an apartment with my best friend, and barely made enough money to make ends meet. But I was at the pinnacle of my walk with Christ. One month things were particularly tight, but I put my faith in God and tithed my full 10%, even though I knew that meant I would be about $200 short for rent. I had no idea what I was going to do. My roommate didn't make any more than I did, so she couldn't cover me. I prayed and truly felt a peace about it. I was concerned, of course, but I wasn't worried. For once I was able to embody Matthew 6:34, "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." 

Two days before rent was due, I got a check in the mail. It was a dividends check from my life insurance. You know the kind your parents buy when you're a baby and is worth practically nothing, but you don't bother to stop it until you get married and have a family and get REAL life insurance? Yeah, that. I had never before gotten a dividend check from them, and I never have since. It was for $200. Such an incredible validation of faith! I was confident in my faith on my own, but to have this as a testimony was amazing.

Now that I'm married to a man who is not as strong in his faith (and thinks it's fine to tithe, just not ten percent!), I don't feel I can make that kind of commitment, because it's not just my money. It's my husband's. It's my family's. 

Still you would think having an experience like that in the past that I would be all about trusting God since I know, I KNOW, he loves me and will take care of me. But since that incredible God-thing happened, over time, I gradually strayed. I still said my bedtime prayers, and occasionally Grace, but I didn't really have a relationship with Him anymore. I got married, moved away from my church, got busy with earthly life, always intending to keep up on my Bible study and prayer time, but slowly letting it slip away. I told myself it was temporary, and once I had my babies, I would make time to regain that close relationship with Him because I want them to be raised with a strong Christian influence. 

But because I had lost that intimacy, the devil—disguised as fear—took over. 

I didn't want to have a strong reliance on Him. If I really make Him number one in my life and turn away from earthly things, that means my babies are up for grabs. And nothing scares me more than something happening to my girls. I know it's illogical. I know I should be like Abraham and be willing to sacrifice my baby to God to show my obedience. But I'm just not.  I am struggling to develop that deep connection again. I know I need to just take the plunge. I'm hoping that having found a new church will help get me back on track. Because the devil's pull is strong, and I need reinforcements to help this poor excuse for a Christian to get back on the right path. 

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Finding the Message

I got to participate in an awesome event Wednesday. About 25 bloggers from Indiana were invited to meet with Lieutenant Governor Becky Skillman to discuss—well, whatever we wanted. Here we are:



Pretty impressive group! Becky's the blonde in the front with the snazzy coat. Do you see me? I'm waaaaaay up at the top. This one:



It's a pretty good pic, if I do say so myself.

And I do.

Since we got to ask her whatever we wanted, I was trying to think of faithy questions to ask. Because, you know, I'm all gung-ho Jesusy and whatnot. But I couldn't think of what I'd ask that the other bloggers present would benefit from and wouldn't be like, "Hey, Becky, what are your personal beliefs and how do they affect your decisions?"

Wonder if I could get a separate interview for that...

Anyway, on the drive home I started to wonder how I could bring today's adventure to my blog.

And I think I have an idea.

But it's not fully formed yet.

So I'm not going to write it right now.

Then again, am I required to find a message in everything I do? Can't some things be fun for the sake of being fun? Like connecting with a bunch of other bloggers, for instance? Like getting to see the lieutenant governor's office? And getting to meet her?

*sigh* That may be enough for one day.

If you're a blogger I met at the roundtable, welcome to The Lazy Christian! Leave a comment so my readers can go check out your bloggy goodness, too!  :)

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

I Gonna Do It!

Ah, toddler logic. Cute and, at the same time, the bane of my existence. You can't reason with toddlers! You can't guide them! They're little "no" machines that want their own way and they don't even know why.

I have one, you see. A toddler. I don't blog about mommy stuff a lot, but sometimes your kids reveal things about your faith that you didn't see before.

Tonight is one of those nights.

We made a trip to the grocery store tonight, and my son wanted to put his coat on. By himself. With no help.

"I gonna do it!"

He couldn't figure it out, but he wouldn't let me help him. Honestly, it wasn't even a coat—it was a fleece vest. Maybe that's more confusing than a coat? I don't know. I've never put a lot of thought into it. But he was adamant that I wasn't going to help him. I ended up having to maneuver the vest so he thought he was putting it on himself, but I was really helping him into it. Tricky mom stuff.

At bedtime, I had to give him a bath and brush his teeth—things Daddy usually does, but Daddy now has a Bible study on Tuesday nights, so it was up to me.

"I gonna do it!"

He had to get out his pajamas. He had to find the lip balm, take the cap off, put it on his lips, put the cap back on, and return it to the caddy. He had to turn the water on to rinse the toothbrush.

Why are these things essential to a toddler? They're not difficult. I really could do it for him and he'd be no worse for it.

Especially the lip balm. Those little suckers were not meant for toddler hands.

I understand that he's learning to do new things and that it's important for him to do some things on his own. But when does he learn to ask for help when he needs it?

And then it struck me: When will I learn to ask for help when I need it?

I can't do everything myself, but I act like I can. I choose to leave God out when he could very easily lend a hand (and get the glory for it). Instead, I'm determined to be independent! To be self-sufficient!

To be arrogant.

To be proud.

Jeepers. I'm like a toddler in my faith.

And I thought I was at least a sassy pre-teen.

*sigh*

Monday, February 14, 2011

Secret Valentine's Day

I was going to write a Valentine's Day post about how I met my husband. The other girl he had a crush on when we met. Him pouring his heart out to me over her. Him finally asking me out, then dumping me a week later.

Yeah, it's a pretty impressive story.

Instead, I'm going to issue a challenge.

Let's have a secret Valentine's Day.

Today:
  • Do one thing for your spouse that he or she normally has to do (some kind of chore). Bonus points if you do a chore he or she despises!
  • Tell your spouse one thing you like about him or her. Not something your spouse does for you—something intrinsic you love about your spouse. Be very specific!
  • Refrain from saying anything negative to or about your spouse today.
  • Give your spouse at least one three-second kiss.
  • Most importantly: Pray for your spouse. Something very specific.
The thing that makes it a secret? Don't point out that you did any of this stuff. No, "Oh, did you see I did your chore for you? Aren't I nice!" None of that. Just do it without hope of recognition or praise. Do it because you love your spouse. Or because you want to love your spouse. Make the choice.

And, you know, you could do this tomorrow, too. And the next day. And the next day.

In fact, repeat daily. Forever.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Friendly Friday: Barren Woman

Today's Friendly Friday blogger is someone I get to call my friend. Not just a bloggy friend; a friend friend. Her name is Rachel, which is probably why we click. Rachels are awesome. Biblical Rachel notwithstanding.

Rachel #1 (to my Rachel #2. Humility!) is my theologian. If I have a question, I ask her. She has a great blog called One Bible, One Year, where she summarizes and clarifies her daily Bible reading. She's a smarty pants!

What I like best about her, though, is that she is a very vision-driven person. When she gets an idea of what she wants to do (and the ideas are always very specific) very little can deter her from getting it done. She's also ambitious, since she has not one but two blogs. Her primary blog, Barren Woman, is about her struggle with infertility and the adoption of her darling son, Little Man. And if you think he looks cute in the pictures, folks, I can tell you they do him no justice. His adorable personality amplifies those good looks tenfold!

She's passionate and caring. She's great to talk to about anything. She's pretty much the best. And this entry of hers speaks right to my heart, since it's something I struggle with constantly. So stop reading me (well, right this moment, anyway)—start reading her!

I'm not sure how many of the people who read this blog are bloggers themselves. If you're interested in doing a guest post for me, just send me an e-mail at thelazychristian@yahoo.com with a link to your blog so I can see what you're all about. And, you know, make sure you're not insane.

**************

I have had a hard time deciding what to write for Rachel’s blog. I feel the pressure to be really Christian, even though the title of the blog is The Lazy Christian. But I’ve been a Christian for a really long time—since I was 7 years old. And while there have been some gaps of belief in there, for the most part, I’ve always loved Jesus.

But I am a world class worrier. Or, at least, I was, before we adopted our son. What I learned while in the midst of our adoption journey is that I have absolutely no control over anything.  I learned that God wants to handle all of my worries; Matthew tells me this. Matthew 6:25 says, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?” Two verses later, 6:27, says, “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?”

Waiting to be matched in our adoption journey… waiting to meet the expectant mother… waiting for the “I’m in labor” phone call… waiting for the papers to be signed to make Little Man officially “ours,” all of those were prime opportunities to worry.  And in the beginning, I worried a lot. But the more I talked to God, the more I prayed and listened, the more I journaled, the more peace I felt.  While we were waiting in a renovated janitor’s closet for the TPR papers to be signed so we could take our son home from the hospital, I was actually able to curl up on a very uncomfortable couch and sleep, because I had turned over all my worry to God.

But then we got home, and the fear started.

Fear is a whole other ballgame, as far as I’m concerned.  Fear encompasses things not listed in Matthew 6. Like death of a loved one. Or a debilitating accident. Or your child growing up without both parents. Or food poisoning. Okay, so maybe food poisoning isn’t on the same level as the others, but it’s still something I fear.

I don’t worry about what I’m going to wear (as evidenced by my pathetic collection of jeans and tee shirts). I don’t worry about what we’re going to eat or how we’re going to pay our bills on one salary. I don’t worry about much anymore these days.

But I fear my son will be killed in an accident or die from some horrible sickness. I fear my truck-driving husband will be in a fatal accident and I will be a widow and my son will never know his father. I fear my mother will die before I’m ready (as if I’ll ever be ready for that). I fear that I will be hurt and become a burden to my husband and son, or that I’ll die and my son will grow up without his mother. I fear that my dad and step-mom will die without Jesus, but they still don’t get it. I fear that my son will grow up to not love Jesus.

And how do I stop those things? I can’t.

How do I stop thinking about those things? I can’t. I try, I really do try.  I know the Bible says about a gazillion times “do not be afraid,” but it’s generally in regard to angels, or Jesus, or God’s glory appearing.  It refers to something specific. My fears aren’t necessarily specific, but they are plentiful.

So I struggle with fear.  And as a lifetime Christian, that’s hard to admit. I’m supposed to be the mature one – a leader. But I’m afraid.

I try not to think about it too much, or I’m pretty sure I’d have a panic attack.

When I sing songs like “Blessed Be Your Name,” I wonder if I really could praise God if he takes away.

When I sing “It is Well with My Soul” to my son at sleepytimes, I wonder, would it be? Would my soul survive?

And then I wonder, if I would, would God do that to me? Would he take away? Would he send sorrows that roll like sea billows?

Perhaps…

So I struggle with fear. Not worry – but fear.

So I cling to Psalm 18:1-2:

“I love you, O Lord, my strength.

The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”

Is there a guarantee in there that nothing I fear will happen? Of course not. But there is the guarantee in there that if my fears do come true, I can cling to my Rock, and he will deliver me.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Trying to Come in Last

Life is rough. We all suffer. People love us, people hurt us. People come and go in our lives. Sometimes they move away, either physically or emotionally. Sometimes they die. Death is crummy. (In case you wanted to know my stance on the matter, there it is.) We all have bad times.

But mine are worse.

(Well, not really.)

Have you ever been in a conversation with someone, and you're telling them something deeply personal and heavy—something you're really struggling with—and instead of empathy or comfort, they come back with, "Oh, but that's not as bad as ____________?" Not as bad as something they've been through. Not as bad as one of their friends has been through. Not as bad as some random thing halfway around the globe that they read in Weekly World News. You don't have it rough at all, in fact, so you should quit your whining.

Not. Helpful.

Unfortunately, I think I've been on both sides of that scenario. I don't intend to do it. Sometimes I just want to share in an "I know how you're feeling" kind of way, but it comes off in an "I've got one-up on you" kind of way. It's not intentional. I just don't know how to stop talking sometimes.

Shocking, I know.

I have a wonderful sister. My wonderful sister has wonderful twin girls who are possibly the most beautiful little girls I've ever known. When I first had my son, I felt like I couldn't talk to my sister about parenting. Any time I had a complaint about life as a new mom, my sister said, "Imagine that times two!" 

Not. Helpful.

She meant well. She was trying to encourage me with the understanding that what I'm doing has been done before, and that some people have to do it with two. It's the only parenting she's ever known. I know she struggled figuring out how to take care of two at once. She filled notebook after notebook with every time either girl ate or had a diaper change. She had to learn how to give each one the attention they needed, a challenge I'm sure has only grown now that they're older and have different interests. I don't even know how she carried two of them when she was pregnant! I mean, she's tiny! My sister is a Super Mom!

Of course my problems are going to seem insignificant next to all of that.

What I've realized is that my sister and I have different lives. She had twins; I'm having one at a time. She had to figure out how to take care of two kids the same age. I'm going to have to figure out how to take care of two kids several years apart (when we do have a next kid). Each has its own challenges. One isn't better than the other; it's just how things are. We each have our own experiences. And, being moms, we only get those experiences by figuring things out and living them ourselves.

Your experiences are valid. Things that are difficult don't suddenly become easier with the knowledge that someone else had it worse. Actually, that information just tends to bum me out. 

"Oh, you mean it can get worse than this? Fantastic."

The best thing you can do when people choose to talk to you about something difficult is to just listen. Don't try to one-up them. Don't try to find a worse scenario to make them feel better (it doesn't work, anyway). Listen to them. Pray for them. Be grateful that they've chosen to share their lives with you.

And if you don't want someone to talk to, but you do want someone to pray for you, e-mail me at TheLazyChristian@yahoo.com. I'll be your prayer warrior!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Got Faith?

Faith.

Belief.

Are they the same thing?

Not quite.

Belief gives us answers. It has solutions. It is measured in systems and theologies.

People can believe together. You and I can believe the same things. It joins us. Connects us.

But faith—faith is a lonely exercise.

Faith is yours and yours alone.

It’s what you know to be true in your heart.

We all start from different places. We all build faith in different ways, at different times in our lives.

Maybe this morning, you have just enough faith to say, “God, I know you’re there, so I’m here.”

But you have faith.

Faith fills in the gap between what is concrete and what is supernatural.

How do we measure faith?

Jesus measured it in mustard seeds.

How many mustard seeds of faith do you have, friend?

Faith can be measured in leaps. A leap of faith can cover a lot of distance.

Faith needs to get you from here—wherever you are—to God. 

That can be pretty far.

The idea is to make the leap shorter.

Bring God closer. Move ourselves into his presence.

The more faith you have, the less faith you need.

Got faith?


Monday, February 7, 2011

Finally Grieving

"You're different from other Christians."

I've heard this quite a few times over the course of the last year. Mostly from nonbelievers. When I defend Christianity to people who have been hurt or scarred by Christians or the Church (my atheist friends, my gay friends, etc.), the response I get is, "Well, not you, Rachel. I know you're not like other Christians."

Why?

I'm not a particularly great Christian. I mean, this whole blog is about how not great I am and how much better I could be—how much better I want to be. Generally, I'm a very selfish person. Selfish, sarcastic (and sometimes unintentionally mean), ungrateful, lazy (see masthead for confirmation on that one). When I compare myself to other Christians (not recommended, by the way), I land squarely in the bottom of the middle. There are Christians who are more well-read than I am. Christians who are better prayer warriors than I am. Christians who give God more glory. Better Christians. Nicer Christians.

Something about that last statement strikes me: nice. It's not really about being nice, is it? I mean, you can be nice to someone and not actually love them. Heck, you don't even have to like someone to be nice. You just have to—I don't know. Not punch them in the face?  It doesn't take much to be nice.

What should set Christians apart is not how nice they are but how compassionate they are. The true love they feel for others. 

Some Christians spew hate for other religions or for gays or for whatever other group they don't like. Why? God doesn't hate those people. God loves them. God is not willing for anyone to perish, but for all to come to repentance. He didn't send Jesus to save a precious few. Jesus came to atone for everyone's sins.

Everyone. He loves everyone

I've heard people pray that God would break their heart for what breaks his—that they would grieve over sin.  Every time I hear that, I think, "Oh, boy. I'm not grieving over anything. I don't really get that upset over sin in the world."

I grieved today. I cried today thinking about the people who think Christians hate them. It's been weighing on my heart for some time now, but today the weight seemed to crash down on me. People I love and admire who think I'm the only Christian in the world who loves them.

That's not what God wants from us.

All we have in this world is God. He's the only thing that won't pass away. Material possessions, money, our bodies—they'll all go away at some point. At the end of the world, all we have is God. He's all there is.

I can't bear the thought of someone not coming to know God because we have taken it upon ourselves to tell them God doesn't want them. God is the only thing that lasts. Who are we to take that away from anybody? I don't want to stand in front of God one day and feel the weight of other people's salvation denied because I told them God hated them.

Do you?

My job—if Christians have a job—is to love. The two greatest commandments are to love God and to love others. 

Not, "Love God and others, except ____________." 

When I'm following those two commandments, God is evident in my life. Other people are drawn to that. People should say, "Rachel is different," not because I'm not like other Christians, but because I'm trying my best to be like Christ. The result is that people see God in my life and decide they want to know God, too.

To my friends and readers who have been hurt by Christians, I'm sorry. Matthew 24:12 (in talking about the end days) says, "Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold." I'm sorry if you've encountered people whose love has grown cold. Christians are human. We make mistakes. We misinterpret scripture, we take it upon ourselves to do the judging that only God can do, and we tell you that God can't love you. 

Go to God. If you've stopped trusting or liking Christians, go straight to The Man himself. Christians can't mess God up. Our hypocrisy doesn't change who God is. In fact, it just proves God's awesomeness because he can forgive his followers despite all of our shortcomings. And he has enough forgiveness for all of us—all of us. Jesus never encouraged his believers to hate or condemn others. That's something some Christians have taken it upon themselves to do. I promise you, God does not approve. 

And to the Christians out there who harbor anger and hate in their hearts, please reconsider. Those feelings aren't from God. They pull you away from God. Anger and hatred cause others to put up barriers that prevent them from knowing God. God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. Tuck that in your heart and remember it always.

Don't let me be the only Christian who truly loves others. Really. I'm a lousy specimen. 

Friday, February 4, 2011

Top Seven Things I Learned by Not Going to Blissdom

So last week was a big deal in the blogosphere. A conference called Blissdom happened. It's a conference where bloggers share ideas and learn new things. A lot of my bloggy friends got to go. They met each other, they had a good time together. They learned stuff about how to grow their blogs and market themselves. 

There was even a flash mob. A flash mob, people! Have I ever expressed my desire to be a part of a flash mob? It's a burning desire in the core of my soul.

And I wasn't there.

All I have of the experience is cryptic Tweets and blog posts from blogger friends involving new names and inside jokes. *sigh*  

So, in honor of Blissdom and all the things people have been posting this week, here's my Blissdom post:


Top Ten Seven Things I Learned by Not Going to Blissdom

7. Most lists have ten things. I didn't learn enough to have ten. If I'd gone to Blissdom, I could have made a Top Ten Things I Learned from Going to Blissdom. I'd have learned so much! But I can't, so I'm stuck with seven. *sigh*

6. People at Blissdom dance like crazy, even when sober. And even when they're not part of the flash mob. I could have shown off my funky fresh moves. Now the world may never see me get down with my bad self.

5. I clearly do not Tweet enough. Blissdom people do, and they use Twitter to grow their blogs. Not me. I use Twitter, but not as effectively as I could use Twitter.

4. Blissdom people learn how to make pretty blogs. Mine is the ugly stepchild of Blissdom blogs.

3. I don't know as many people as Blissdom people do. They can squeeze eight, ten names into a single tweet! I don't even know what they're saying, but they're saying it to and about lots of people. People they've actually met now.

2. I'm not effective at marketing myself. Blissdom people do a better job of that. I'm learning that social media is a full-time job—one that I don't know how to do very well! But I'd be a pro if I'd gone to Blissdom.

1. Cool kids go to Blissdom. Next year, I'm going to be a cool kid.

So that's my top ten seven list. Next year, I'll have all sorts of neat things to share. But for now, I'm going to wallow in self-pity. And watch some Buffy. And eat some cookies.

Don't miss Blissdom, kids, or this lonely cookie-eating, Buffy-watching will be your fate!