Community

5 Minute Friday – DECIDE

Today is 5 Minute Friday where every Friday women from all over the world get together and write about a word for five minutes – no editing, not censoring. Just writing. You can join in HERE.

Today’s word is DECIDE. This is the second week in a row that I’ve participated in 5 minute Friday after a long hiatus and for the second time, the chosen word echoes eerily the current events in my life.

You see, right now I am in the process of deciding: deciding how to spend my time, deciding where to put my focus, deciding what to say no to and what to say yes to.

All of it seems so good, yet I only have so many hours in my days, so many days in my weeks, and well, you get the idea. I can’t say yes to everything.

The problem is, I like lots of things. Learn more about photography? I’m in. Grow my blog and learn more about how to get the word out? Sounds like fun! Learn new knitting techniques and maybe take a class on hand lettering? Sign me up! Get more involved in the organization where I volunteer? Great!

The problem is – I can’t do it all. Well, at least I can’t do it all and do it well. So, I have a choice. I can do a lot of things halfheartedly or I can do a few things really well.

I have to decide.

Did I ever mention I hate making decisions? The reason I hate them all comes down to fear. Fear that I might choose wrong. Fear that I might miss out on something cool or interesting or awesome. Fear that by deciding I am closing doors I might not be able to open again.

Thankfully, God tells us in James 1 that if we ask for wisdom He WILL GIVE IT TO US UNGRUDGINGLY.

The key is we have to believe Him – both that He will give us that wisdom and the actual wisdom He gives us. Have you ever prayed about something and God answers and you keep praying because you think that can’t possibly be what He meant? Yeah, me too!

Ironically, today I set aside time to decide – decide on my focus and direction in this next season of my life. And one thing I have decided on very firmly is that I can trust God to lead me and give me wisdom.

Blessings, Rosanne

5 Minute Fridays – ALIVE

It’s been a while since I’ve participated in a 5 Minute Friday, but I am excited to dive in again. If you aren’t familiar, 5 Minute Fridays are where women from all over the world all write for five unedited minutes about the word for that week. I know this labels me as a word nerd, but  I always loved those timed free writes we did in my college writing classes. Some of the best work came out of a time to write with no pressure. You can come on over and join in on 5 Minute Fridays HERE.

Today’s word is ALIVE.

I find it really interesting that the word today is Alive because today is Good Friday, the day we slow down and remember Jesus’ death. It’s also a bit ironic for me personally because it seems my little world has been colored with death a lot lately. It started when my brother took his life last summer, but it didn’t end there.

A woman our family has known for a long time died in September.

A young man in a local high school killed himself, and he was found by his dad and brother on the soccer field of the school.

A woman (the daughter of the woman who died in September) lost her oldest son suddenly in January.

A young man was shot and killed just a few weeks ago which means his life was taken and his shooter, another teenager, his life is also over.

A young girl at a different local high school tried to kill herself in the band room of her school. A few students found her but she passed away just a few days ago.

Two young girls, only 7 and 10, died in a house fire this week.

Today, I remember that Jesus died a gruesome death on my behalf, and yet, because of that horrible death, I can have hope. Despite the numerous tragedies that have surrounded my world lately, I can still be alive because Jesus died.

But He didn’t just die. He defeated death. See, the cross, while it is so important to our salvation stories, isn’t the end. If it was the end, Christianity would be no different than any other religion in the history of the world. No – Jesus defeated death and he arose from that grave and He is alive.

And because He lives, I can too – no matter what the circumstances.

Blessings, Rosanne

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Why I Don’t Want to be Color-Blind

I’ve read those posts on how the answer to racial division isn’t being color-blind. To be honest, they kind of felt, well, persnickety. Like the writer was using semantics to pick others apart.

After all, I didn’t doubt the sincerity of people who called themselves color-blind. I’d even used the term to describe myself a few times. To me, it meant I liked you for you – not what color your skin was.

However, today, I did an interview with two pastors who are bringing their congregations together for a combined worship service, and it changed my view. I no longer want to be color blind.

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One pastor is white and the other one is black. One’s congregation is primarily white, and the others is primarily black. One’s congregation lives in a more affluent area, and the others congregation lives in what could be termed “inner city.”

Interestingly, both pastors said that their congregants are very excited about the coming service, and they have enjoyed the opportunity to meet and serve with new people.

So, what is the bridge between these two seemingly very different congregations – congregations that in the course of a day probably wouldn’t overlap much, if at all?

Friendship.

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See, these two pastors are the best of friends. They regularly get together, pray together and encourage each other in the hard work of ministry.

And what makes their friendship work? It’s not ignoring the differences between them and letting the obvious difference in their skin colors (and the accompanying baggage that comes with that) remain unspoken.

While they both said that their common goals – reaching the community with the love of God – is one of the foundations of their friendships, they also shared that they had the hard conversations.

Only in a true friendship do you have the trust to have those hard conversations – conversations that include things like race. 

Race is often the elephant in the room. We’re all aware of it, but in order to address it, we have to cross the vast no man’s land to the other side of the room. So, instead, we hug the edges of the room, staying on our side so as not to disturb the elephant – or the status quo.

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But here’s the deal – as uncomfortable and hard as it can be to talk about race and to acknowledge the issues, without really seeing someone we can’t have true relationship.

Because real relationship means truly seeing the other person. When we claim color-blindness, we aren’t seeing the other person in all their nuance and complexity.

Yes, I realize that when most poeple use the word color blind, they mean they don’t allow race to influence their judgment of other people. I respect that, and agree with that. The Scripture is pretty clear that we aren’t supposed to allow someone’s outsides influence our perception of their worth.

But let’s be really honest – nobody is truly color blind. It’s not as if we don’t notice or take note of another person’s skin color or ethnicity.

Hopefully, we don’t allow a person’s race or ethnicity to influence our perception of someone’s worth as a person, but to say we are color blind is to leave out a big part of a person’s identity and history. Those are things, while they may not make someone’s complete identity, that have certainly contributed to the formation of who that person is today.

Racial unity among believers has been something that has weighed heavily on my heart for a while now. Often, it feels like wishful dreaming or a naive hope that believers, no matter how different, can come together in unity.

But yesterday, during that interview, I learned a simple, yet profound, truth. Racial unity starts and ends with me and with you. It means stepping outside our comfort bubble and engaging in relationship with people who are different than we are, and instead of ignoring the differences, to embrace them.

It’s human nature to stay huddled together with people just like you, but in doing so, we miss so much of the richness of relationship that is inherent in the Christian life.

So, that means I don’t want to be color blind. Instead, I want to truly see people – see them as God’s workmanship, His crowning creation whom He loves beyond my human comprehension.

I want to listen, to truly hear the other person’s story – even if it makes me uncomfortable or challenges me.

Because God has called me to love, and to truly love I have to see the whole person, not just the politically correct parts of the whole.

As one of the pastors so eloquently put it, “Unity is not something you do; it is something you be.” To paraphrase Gandhi, “Let’s be the unity we want to see.”

Blessings, Rosanne

 

When the Unthinkable Happens

Nobody is ever prepared for a sudden death. We can say all we want  that you never know if you’ll be here tomorrow, but let’s be real.I have a to do list sitting on my desk that I fully expect to work on tomorrow. In my head, I know you can be gone in a blink, but I’m still not really prepared to deal with tragedy landing on my doorstep tomorrow – never mind tonight!

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A few days ago, a family from my church lost a family member. He was only 26 years old – a life cut tragically short. It was completely unexpected. In a moment, a son, a nephew, a grandson, a brother was lost.

A family is left flailing in the sudden void of loss. When I heard, my heart broke for them, especially as this loss comes so closely on the heels of another. The mother of this young man, lost her own mother at the end of September. I wrote about her passing here.

I wish I could say why tragedies like this happen.

I wish I could explain the greater, eternal purpose for this.

I wish I could build a bridge for this family over the deep valley of grief before them, instead of them having to go through it. But if I’ve learned anything in the six months since I found out my brother died, it’s that grief is not something you can go around. It’s something you have to walk through.

 

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Instead, the only thing I can offer is the hope and promise that Jesus is enough to get you through this.

I will hold out, with trembling hand, the hope of what I now know down deep in my soul – God’s love for us is not abstract or distant. It is tender and personal and reaches down to where we are, no matter how deep the valley in which we find ourselves.

My prayer for this precious family is this: that the God of all comfort who met me in my deepest moments of sorrow, who held me up when I didn’t think I’d ever be able to stand again, will sustain them. I will pray that in the awful ashes of their grief, they will experience the beauty of God’s presence.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Blessings, Rosanne

Made for Fellowship

The irony is not lost on me that when I went to publish my first post on Breaking the Bondage of Busyness, I realized I had been in such a rush the night before that I Didn’t Save My Final Draft! And of course, I didn’t have time this morning to finish before going to do story hour at our local library, so here I am, behind schedule as usual feeling slightly frazzled because I should really be editing religious briefs for the newspaper right now – at least that is what I have written in my calendar for this time slot.

But instead of letting that frazzled feeling grow into a true tizzy of panic (and maybe banging my head on my desk), I’ve decided to take a deep breath. After all, part of the reason I’m writing this series is to break my own bondage to busyness.

breaking bondage buttonOne of the things I’ve noticed, at least in my own life, that one of the first things busyness kills is true fellowship.

I recently did a Kelly Minter study on I, II and III John. To be honest, while I have read those books of the Bible, I have never studied them. Can I just say, I absolutely LOVED them! If you have a chance, pick up Minter’s study, What Love Is.

One of the key words in the book of I John is the word fellowship. The verse in I John 1:3 caught my attention.

“What we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.” (emphasis mine)

Wouldn’t it seem to you that John would tell these believers all that he had seen and heard and touched (after all, the man walked with Jesus here on this earth), so they could, I don’t know, live a better life or do more for God or even know God better?

But nope – the reason is so these believers could have fellowship with other believers. Obviously, the idea of fellowship was deeply important to John.

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Maybe this was because he was a part of the fellowship of the twelve disciples. I’m sure they were a tight knit group – even with all their inner squabbling about who would be more important.

Or maybe it was because John was part of the very first church where fellowship was a key part of their worship and spiritual growth.

Or maybe it was because of the words of Paul in Galatians and I Corinthians where he likens Christians to a body. A body certainly has fellowship with itself. It’s not like our liver goes out on its own or your foot takes a walk by itself.

The thing is, God created us for fellowship. Even in the Garden of Eden when Adam was in a perfect paradise, God said it wasn’t good for him to be alone. Granted, in this case, God gave Adam a wife, but God could have made it so Adam hung out by himself, too. After all, the man was living in paradise where everything was perfect. But God didn’t do that. Instead he created humans to need other humans.

That is still true today, but the thing with our crazy, modern lives is that while we are constantly connected, we very rarely experience true fellowship.

I love Facebook as much as the next person, but it isn’t really made for anything other than rather shallow dives into the lives of others. It’s hard to tweet what’s on your heart in 140 characters or less, and even if a picture is worth a thousand words, that picture may not even be a reflection of what is really going on in someone’s life.

How many people do you really know and when you compare their social media account to their real lives there is a monumental gap between the perception and the reality? Or even your own life. I know I don’t put all the nitty gritty stuff on Facebook (and I’m a pretty real, let-it-all-hang-out type of girl) because honestly, social media isn’t really made to be a place of deep knowing.

While I have developed real relationships with other women online, those relationships took time and energy to forge. I’ve belonged to a mom’s group since my youngest was 2 years old. He’s now 14. Our lives have changed and morphed, but we pray for each other and support each other through births, through rocky marriages, and even death. It’s a beautiful thing. Even on that board, there are some women I know more deeply because we have talked through email or on the phone. We have consciously made our connections deeper.

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But online friends don’t take the place of friends who are bone and flesh, either. How is it that despite the whirlwind of activity among crowds of people that make up most of our lives, a common theme among women is feeling they are doing life all alone?

This is true even in our churches because activities aren’t fellowship either. While I enjoy a women’s event as much as the next person, these are not places that generally forge deep fellowship. They can open the door to fellowship, but true fellowship takes time and energy and investment – something many of us can’t imagine doing because we are already running on fumes.

But we yearn for it, and that’s not a mistake because God made us for fellowship – particularly with other believers. The Greek word used in the verse above is koinonia and it means community, communion, joint participation or intimacy. It’s also a term that is sometimes used for sex in the Bible. When you see that euphemism that so and so “knew” his wife – that is what they are talking about.

Over and over again in the New Testament, there are instructions and exhortations on how to live in fellowship with other believers. Paul says that unbelievers will know we belong to Christ by the way we love each other.

That gives me pause because I wonder what people see when they look at my life? How about yours?

The truth is real fellowship is not just connecting. It is soul to soul communication and that doesn’t happen without the investment of time. Something we all seem to be in short supply of these days.

God tells us He saved us so we could have abundant life. I believe part of that abundance is our fellowship with other believers. When we let busyness chain us to the master of urgency, our lives don’t feel so abundant. In fact, they seem a bit depleted.

I don’t know about you, but I’m tired (figuratively AND literally) of doing life in a way that doesn’t tap into all that God has for me here on this earth, including true fellowship. Are you ready to do life differently too? I hope you’ll join me this month as we look at ways to break those bonds of busyness so we can truly live.

Blessings, Rosanne

 

The Need for Community

I hesitated to write this post. Not because I don’t think the topic isn’t important, but because I don’t want this to come across as a criticism of my friends or my church or my community. I also don’t want this to seem like some big pity party.

Because it’s not. Because, unfortunately, I don’t think my experience is unique. It’s a cry from my heart to yours.

On July 30, my world was turned upside down. My parents got that call no parent ever wants to get. A policeman showed up at their door to let them know their 45-year-old son had committed suicide.

That evening, as I sat with my parents and my husband, I simultaneously felt numb and had a wild desire to run as far and as fast as I could – as if that would somehow make it all untrue, if I could just run far enough.

Over the next few days, I called family and let them know. I emailed and messaged people to let them know.

We found out on Thursday, and over that weekend one person talked to me on the phone. I did get emails and Facebook messages and a few texts, and, please don’t get me wrong. I did appreciate those and the thought and kindness behind them. But what I craved, and wasn’t able to really articulate at the time, was presence. I know people probably didn’t want to intrude or maybe they didn’t know what to say under the circumstances. I can’t tell you how comforting that one phone call was,though, or how much I appreciate my friend who came to walk with me on Sunday and just listened.

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The next week we had the memorial service. A long line of people came to share their condolences, to share what my brother had meant to them. It was comforting that so many people loved and cared about my brother and about us.

Over the next weeks, a few people asked at church how I was doing. One day, I got so many cards in my mailbox, I thought maybe the mailman had made a mistake. And I appreciated every one of those cards and the notes written in them.

But, besides that friend who came to walk with me that first weekend, not one person came by my house during that first week. Not one person brought a meal (not that we really needed it). Besides a couple friends that I talk to on a regular basis on the phone, nobody called during those first few weeks. Not one person was truly present with me in my grief that was not my husband or my parents.

The thing is, I’m pretty active in my church and my community. I teach a Sunday school class, and I volunteer at a home for young women. But I felt utterly and completely alone in my grief.

I tried not to let it bother me, though, because I have this sort of horror of being petty. And I knew nobody was doing any of this on purpose. They were just busy and had their own problems and issues. School was getting ready to start. It was a busy time of year, and let’s face it, this wasn’t their loss.

But I still felt desperately alone.

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Of course, God did not leave me completely alone and adrift in my sea of grief. Comfort did come and from the most unexpected sources. A group of online friends from a mom’s group I’ve been a part of for years, sent me these beautiful angel figurines. One of those women has faithfully asked me how I am doing and how she can pray for me – this despite the fact that she has a lot going on in her own life. In fact, that online group offered me more support than almost anyone in my real life did.

Another lovely woman from church who I didn’t really know very well – she was the mother of one of my classmates in school – has made it a point to come up to me regularly to see how I am doing and to give me a hug and to say she is praying for me. The thing is, I believe that she really is.

My husband, the Coach, often had the perfect words of comfort, the words I needed to hear at just the right time. Even though he’s normally pretty quiet, God used him so much during those first weeks to soothe those hard moments because dealing with grief when someone commits suicide is just a different kind of grieving.

And God showed up. The month of September had some wonderful weather, and I would take my Bible, my journal and my coffee out to the wicker love seat on my back porch, and God met me there. While I felt alone in so many ways, I did feel God’s presence in a real and tangible way during those weeks.

It’s hard to describe the preciousness of the God of the universe bending low to gently staunch the bleeding, to stitch up the wounds and to heal your tattered soul. But He did and I will be forever grateful for His goodness and His kindness.

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But He didn’t just stitch things up because the truth was, embedded in the wound of my brother’s death was a root of infection.

As the weeks went by and my numbness and some of the trauma wore off, I became aware of this pit of resentment I was carrying around with me. I was resentful that I felt so alone, and I was upset that people I had counted on to support me, hadn’t met that expectation.

I was angry that people had acted…… just like me.

God first made me aware of the resentment festering in my wound, and then He did the painful work of cleaning it out. And cleaning it out included admitting that the people I resented so much for not meeting MY expectations acted no differently than I had myself on innumerable occasions.

How many times had I gone to a funeral, hugged the person, said I’d pray for them and maybe sent a card or some flowers or some kind of memorial, and then forgotten all about them as the busyness of my daily life swallowed me back up?

How many times had I actually shown up at someone’s house or called them on the phone when I had heard of a death in that person’s life? The answer is zero.

To be completely fair, that choice was not because I didn’t care but because I assumed the person would want some space and time with immediate family. I didn’t want to barge in at a really difficult time.

But what stopped me later on? I’d see that person out and about, and they seemed fine. So I assumed they were. It was easier that way because I was busy.

God showed me that instead of an opportunity for resentment to grow into bitterness, my own experiences could teach me how to help other people when they walked down those hard paths.

You are probably thinking the same thing I was thinking at this point. How in the world are you supposed to add another thing onto your overflowing to do list? How will you incorporate supporting those that grieve and are going through hard times into your already busy lifestyle?

The truth is I don’t think that you do. What I really think is that we need to fundamentally change the way we do life because how we are doing it is not working. And it is slowly, surely killing us – or at least our souls.

 

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You know, originally, I had planned on doing a series of posts on I John – which is what I was studying this fall. Or maybe I would share about the women who populated the Bible during Jesus’ birth.

But instead, God has laid on my heart this burning message that we, as the Church, need to get counter-cultural. We need to intentionally stop being busy doing the urgent and start focusing on the important.

Because there are too many people who are hurting.

Because there are too many people who are struggling single-handed with their sin battle .

Because there are too many people who feel alone.

Community, fellowship – these things take time and intention.

If you are looking for a series on how to be more productive or meet more goals, this won’t be it. But if you are looking to change things this year so that instead of busy you have meaning, and instead of activities you have community, then I hope you will join me.

After all, what better time to look at the issue of busyness in our lives than December – the craziest month of the year?

Blessings, Rosanne

 

Pointing Fingers Isn’t Really Compassionate

The last few days, my news feed has been blowing up with articles and posts about Syrian refugees. The majority of them are rants about how unChrist-like everyone is who is leery about allowing thousands of refugees into the United States.

The thing is, I’ve gone back and forth over this issue. On the one hand, I get why people in the government have concerns. I get why citizens wonder if it is wise to let in thousands of people upon whom it is very difficult to do accurate background checks. After all, the governments primary job is to protect its citizens and to do what is best for national security. After recent events in Paris, I understand why some would feel uneasy about throwing open the proverbial doors without reservation.

On the other hand, when I look at the words in the Bible, it calls us to love radically – even those we consider our enemies. We are called to take care of the orphan and the widow and to stand in the gap for the oppressed. I believe those aren’t just suggestions either, but mandates we are all called to as believers. Jesus said we would be known by our love.

BUT, He also said we would be known by how we love each other. I am studying the book of James at the moment, and honestly, if you want your toes stomped all over, read James. He doesn’t really pull any punches. He doesn’t let believers get away with just spouting good intentions. He makes it really clear that you have to put your money where your mouth is.

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As I was thinking all of this over and contemplating why I felt so uncomfortable with all these posts and articles when in many ways I agreed with the basic opinion, I realized that part of it was much of it appeared to be one group of Christians shaking their collective finger at another group and categorizing who was more or less like Christ based on where they stood on this issue. Then, I opened my Bible this morning and read these words:

Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. This wisdom is not which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural and demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy, and the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” James 3:13-1

The phrase that hit me right away was “in the gentleness of wisdom.” The one thing I noticed in many of the posts and articles was a harshness, a need to knock people down and glare down at them from this position of self-righteousness and often, hypocrisy. I have noticed this a lot, especially on social media – the need to be right often trumps the need to be kind. Like, if we are right, it’s okay to stomp all over other people and to denigrate their character and grade their spirituality.

I’m not against speaking truth. In fact, I firmly believe love without truth isn’t really love at all, but I think we need to be really careful when we start assigning levels of spirituality based on whether people agree with our opinion or not.

One of the arguments I have read the most is that we are allowing fear to make us unloving. And there is some truth there because yes, there are some people who do not want Syrian refugees in our country because they are afraid.

I don’t know about you, but there have been times I’ve been fearful. There have been times I’ve invited fear into the house of my soul and let it pull up a chair and get comfortable. I have even let fear influence my decisions.

If we are adamant about showing compassion to refugees who are afraid and suffering, shouldn’t we offer compassion to our fellow believers who may also be afraid, just for different reasons?

But we would be pretty narrow minded if we didn’t realize that some people are just more cautious by nature. The thing is caution isn’t a sin, and throwing blame and guilt on people who are cautious by nature isn’t very loving, either. Talking things through and sharing why we believe what we believe gets us a lot further than denigrating someone else’s faith.  Wisdom,, by James definition, is gentle, and that is coming from someone who appears to be pretty plain speaking.

The other thing that hit me was what heavenly wisdom actually is: pure, peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering and without hypocrisy.

The things I’ve read haven’t been very peaceable. I mean, does anyone honestly think that telling someone they are not like Christ, don’t know how to love people and aren’t up to scratch spiritually is going to do much of anything except make them defensive?

And let’s talk about hypocrisy for a moment. Yes, as believers we are to be fearless. We are to have the mindset that if the worst anyone can do to us is kill our human bodies, then there is nothing to be afraid of because we have eternity with Jesus promised to us.

I know this in my head, and I believe it in my heart. But I’m also human. So are you, and I’m guessing if someone pulled a gun on you right now, you’d still feel afraid. I know I would.

I’m also guessing that you probably locked your door last night. Was that an indication that you have no faith and don’t love people?

As I contemplated our call to love radically, even our enemies, I found that even though my opinion leans more toward helping refugees and giving them sanctuary, I can’t really condemn those who don’t feel the same way – especially not based on the argument that they are more concerned with their own safety and comfort than I am.

Why? Well, because if I am honest, I regularly make my safety and my family’s safety a priority. I don’t pick up hitchhikers. I don’t have any homeless people off the streets living in my house. I have not moved to the worst neighborhood in town so I can be a light in the dark. I have not traveled to where the refugees are to offer help and support.

I’m just as taken up with my own comfort and safety as anyone else. As we clamor to help the refugees by allowing them to enter our borders, I have to ask myself, How much have I done for them so far? If this is important enough to attack other people’s character, how have I sacrificed to help the refugees up to this point?

The sad fact is I haven’t. I had meant to send those emergency blankets, but I got busy and it slipped away in the rush of my own to do list. Yeah – a fine example of loving others more than myself right? :\

Here’s the thing, if we really care about the refugees, we do not need the government to tell us we are allowed to love them. Ann Voskamp had a great post about things YOU can do as an individual to make a difference, everything from making your voice heard to the government to providing much needed practical items.

We live in dark times. People are hurting and suffering and they need us to show them Jesus with more than just lip service. What they don’t need, though, is believers tearing into each other because we don’t agree on exactly how to do that.

What are you doing to love others? I’d love to hear about it!

Blessings, Rosanne

 

Did You Take the Carla Dysert Challenge

It’s been a year since I got the phone call. A year since Carla Dysert got in her car, intending to go to work, but instead went to meet Jesus.

I still miss Carla. I miss her way of looking at things. I miss her upbeat outlook on life, that no matter what happened, God was ultimately in control. I miss how she challenged me to step up and step out.

The day Carla died, it just didn’t make sense to me. Here was a woman who went out of her way (sometimes WAY out of her way) to do whatever God was asking of her. Here was a woman who made a real difference in Jesus’ name.

Plant during the warm winter.

So, I sent out a challenge – the Carla Dysert Challenge. You can read about here, but the challenge, in a nutshell was this – “whatever it is you feel God telling you to do, just do it. Put it at the very top of your to do list. Don’t let busyness or fear or doubt or just feeling silly keep you from it. Whatever opportunity God places in your path, take the time to act on it.”

 

That post was read more than anything else I have ever posted. It had almost 21,000 readers. All over Facebook and on Twitter, people vowed to take the Carla Dysert Challenge.

It totally warmed my heart to think of Carla’s legacy continuing. I thought she would have gotten a big kick out of it, too.

But you know how life is. We get busy. The pain of loss dulls to an ache. The emotions that run so high after a sudden loss die down, and we get back to our everyday lives.

And the challenge we took up with such passion and fervor on that day last November, gets pushed to the back, like all the the other good intentions that grow dusty, pushed to the back of our lives by the urgent.

The thing is, though, some of you actually followed through on the Carla Dysert Challenge.

For myself, this year, I made Carla my word for the year. It wasn’t to idolize her or put her on some kind of a pedestal. Not only is it a recipe for disillusionment to put any human (no matter how special) way up on a pedestal, I know that wouldn’t have been something Carla even wanted.

Nope, I made her name my word for the year to remind me to be intentional about looking for the opportunities God puts in my path, to be willing to listen to God’s still, small voice and to have a heart that is willing to do what that still, small voice asks, even when it doesn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense. Even when I feel foolish.

I wanted to be challenged by Carla’s legacy, even though she was no longer here to do the pushing. I wish I could tell you a story of some huge, great thing I did in the name of that challenge, but I can’t. What I can tell you is that I said a lot more yeses this year, and those small yeses have made a difference in my life, and hopefully, in the lives around me.

And I guess that is okay because at the foundation of Carla’s legacy was a daily faithfulness, a faithfulness to say yes to the everyday ordinary things. It was the accumulation of all those yeses that made Carla’s legacy something we still remember a year after she is gone.

I wonder – did you take the Carla Dysert Challenge? Since I have no real way to follow up except through this blog, I am hoping you will take a moment and share how the Carla Dysert Challenge changed you this year. If I get enough people maybe we can do a series of interviews. What better way to honor Carla than by sharing how we obeyed her God this past year!

Blessings, Rosanne

Saying Good-Bye to Mary

When I heard yesterday that Mary Brown had passed away, a deep sadness descended. I knew Mary had been fighting cancer for a long time, and I also knew that the cancer was winning. I knew she spent more days in bed than out and about, but I guess you are never ready to say good-bye to someone. You always think there will be more time.

I got to know Mary because she worked in the office at Temple Christian School for many years. All the kids loved her. She always had a warm, welcoming smile for them, but at the same time, despite her caring demeanor, she was always wise to those trying to get away with something.

I suppose when you have five daughters, that is a skill that is highly honed.

It never failed when I came into the office – both when I worked there and when I was subbing or just dropping something off for my kids – that when I asked how the morning was going, that Mary would say, “Crazy, as usual,” and then laugh.

Despite the frazzled mornings with the phone ringing, kids coming in late and people bringing in lunch money, I know Mary loved her job because she loved the kids and her co-workers. I know it was hard to step away from that job because of her health.

Even though Mary knew she was probably going to lose her fight with cancer, whenever I saw her at church or at a game or just out and about, she almost always had a smile on her face. There was still a light in her eyes, even the last time I saw her at church, looking frail.

Even in these final months, Mary raised her hands to praise the Lord during worship in church. She didn’t walk through the valley of the shadow of death – she praised her way through it, and whether she knew it or not, it was encouragement to all who witnessed it.

Her actions as she neared the end of her life were such an example to me. I’m sure there were days when Mary was scared or she got frustrated or felt discouraged. I’m sure there were days when she cried, overcome by it all. After all, she was only human.

But what I saw and what others saw was a woman who faced her illness and her coming death with a grace and a dignity I can only hope to emulate when my time comes.

The reason she could do that is because she knew that this world, as much as she loved the people in it, was not her home. She could face an uncertain earthly future because her eternal future was secure.

I can say with confidence that I know that Mary is in a better place. I know her pain and her suffering are over. But I also know that won’t change the grief her friends and family will have to walk through or the hole her passing will leave in all the lives she touched.

The thing is though, through my tears, I have to smile because I can picture her. I can see her at the feet of Jesus, her hands lifted in worship, whole and healthy with her face shining with joy. Because Mary knew Jesus, I can truly say, “Rest in peace, friend.”

“Oh death, where is your victory? Oh death, where is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. ” ~ I Corinthians 15:55-57

The Problem with the Duggars’ Perfect World

For someone who has never watched the Duggars, this is my third blog post based on all the recent drama in their lives. The thing is, whether you watched the show or not,  you can’t get away from their names plastered all over the internet lately or their faces smiling out at you at the check out line.

Whether you like them or not, the Duggars are hard to ignore. In June, the story of Josh Duggar molesting his sisters hit the news like a tsunami, and it had people passionately talking about their thoughts and opinions on what had happened. The topic was so prevalent, that I even blogged about it – once on forgiveness and once on the concept of sin and its seriousness.

Even though I am not really a fan of the Duggars or their show, my heart can’t help but go out to Anna Duggar. First, in the spring, the whole world found out about her husband’s sexual peccadillos as a teenager, but at the time, Anna thought all that was in the past. She was under the impression that her husband had overcome his sexual struggles as a teenager, and he had repented and turned down a different path.

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Now, she finds out that isn’t true. In fact, the whole world found out it wasn’t true There was a sense of giddy glee as the virtual lynch mob circled that made me feel a bit sick. The world loves it when Christians fall in publicly spectacular ways because it reinforces their own choices of unbelief. It makes them feel justified about their own bad choices. It’s an unfortunate aspect of human nature that we like to see “perfect” people revealed as not so perfect.

Today, I read a post by Sara Wallace at Gospel Centered Mom. You can read it here. It was really excellent because it talks about a fallacy that is so easy to believe – that if we just do all the right things, nothing bad will happen.

You know how it goes. If you just do all the right things as a mom, your kids will never struggle or make bad choices, or maybe the lie you believe sounds more like, if I just am a perfect wife and do everything I’m supposed to, my husband will never cheat or look at pornography.

The problem is, as Sara so eloquently put it, the right things can become an idol on their own – an idol we pay homage to in return for nothing bad ever happening. Putting our faith in our performance is a slippery slope on which to stake your future.

Unfortunately, this idea of doing everything right not only sets up false idols in our lives, but it isolates us in our struggle and weaknesses when we hide our vulnerabilities behind our masks of perfection.

Satan loves it when we go all lone sheep because it makes us easy targets. Worse, it gives the unbelieving world fuel to call us hypocrites when we continue to wear those plastic masks of perfection.

When we are not real and honest with each other and with the lost about the struggle and the reality of trying to live holy in a sin sick world, we miss the chance to point them to the real answer. Hint- it isn’t performing perfectly. The answer is Jesus.

What if, instead of trying to hide the issue and sweep it under the rug, Josh had gotten real help when he was a teenager? Then, Josh could have been open that he struggled with sexual addiction (not saying he should have shared all the nitty gritty details), but what if, instead of calling out gay people and throwing out a blanket accusation of child abuse, he had said humbly, “I too have struggled with sexual sin and addiction. It is hard and it can be soul destroying. I don’t want that for you. God has a better way, a way that leads to wholeness and contentment and freedom. Because I care and I have struggled too, I can’t endorse same-sex marriage.”

People still might not have agreed with him, but they would have known he cared more about the sinner than the particular sin that plagued them. Why? Because he wasn’t setting himself up as better – just redeemed.

I just hope that Anna will not slip behind the mask of perfect performance and try to be the perfect wife with the perfect responses. I can’t imagine going through this, let along doing it publicly. I sincerely hope believers will rally around her and give her the grace of letting her be real about the struggle. I hope they lift her up with prayer about the road ahead of her because this is one time perfect performance isn’t going to cut it and wearing a mask will just make it harder to breathe.

Blessings, Rosanne

 

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