Advent: Repentence

Thanksgiving and gratitude give way to Advent, a time to reflect on the first coming of Christ and to prepare for the second coming of Christ. Since this purple, penitential season is a time to examine one’s self, repentance is the place to start.

I sometimes get caught up in what I need, what I don’t have, or what I want. Being thankful helps me to remember how blessed I am. It refocuses my attention on all that I do have and how I lack for nothing. When I think about all the overwhelming blessings in my life, it puts my sins in their right perspective, and I am convicted of the need for repentance. Before I can prepare my heart for the joys of Christmas celebrations, examining my attitudes, thoughts and actions helps to prepare the way for His Coming into my life.

What do I find when I examine myself? I haven’t stolen anything lately that I can think of. I haven’t coveted my neighbors goat or broken any of the ‘big ones’. But this examination brings to light attitudes, negatives thoughts, selfishness, an ego always yearning for the spotlight, and pride. These seemingly subtle sins (but actually are the real sins) affect how I treat others and how I think others need to treat me. They blind me to seeing Christ in others, and deafen me to hearing His Voice.

Today, though, we light the first candle and read the Scriptures. We take in the verses of His Glory on our faces….preparing for His Coming….and being given every spiritual blessing until His return…and we say the words of the first week of Advent.

In my examining, I pray “Lord, Will I ever get it right?”

The answer is burning brightly before me……Jesus is Hope.Jesus is Hope

The questions I ask in my repentance are always answered in Hope.

May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope …2 Thes 2:16

How does repentance bring you to Hope….the first week of Advent?

~Amy

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Thanksgiving: Blessings

The holidays have begun! Whether I’m ready or not to be bombarded with commercials, decorations, music, and sales, it’s here. And, it seems it’s here earlier than ever.

Don’t get me wrong….I love Christmas, and I really am looking forward to the season. Each year the activities and traditions we are building with our family are so wonderful and dear. But, I have a serious pet peeve. I can’t stand the fact that Christmas commercialism is overshadowing and crowd out Thanksgiving! Used to stores didn’t open until Friday morning. Then, it was 5:00am….then.1:00am….the 12:00am. Last year, stores opened on Thanksgiving night. I knew it would happen this year, and it has. Some stores are opening on Thanksgiving day for shopping. Christmas music has already started!!  My heart grieves.

Seems like to me every sacred holiday has been slowly taken over in order to take away from its original purpose. Christmas- Santa Claus; Easter- Easter Bunny; Valentine’s Day- Romance, cards and candy; Halloween- Death and darkness, etc, etc. Thanksgiving has been immune until now because there’s been no way to commercialize it. The companies can’t find a way to change its purpose, so instead, they are simply drowning it out. Create enough deals, get the shopping started early to plump up the end of the year sales and make them forget about the real reason.

I don’t want it to suck me in. I want to resist. I will celebrate Thanksgiving.

It became so clear to me yesterday at church. The timing of these holidays blend so perfectly together….Thanksgiving, Advent, and Christmas.

Thanksgiving is a time to count blessings, to pause and give thanks, to realize how much we have. This gratitude is the perfect beginning to Advent- a season to reflect on the gift of Jesus. Before we can truly celebrate His Birth, we need a time of reflection and introspection to recenter our lives on Him. And finally, the delight of Christmas overflows into joy!

So, before the season sweeps us away, take time this week to be especially thankful. Count your blessings. Yes, name them one by one. Oh sure, if you gotta go shopping, go! But, don’t let the commercialism crowd out the real reason for the season!

Happy Thanksgiving!!

~Amy

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My Coat of Many Colors

It’s Finally looking like fall, so it’s a good time to put up my favorite post again……

 

I have a coat of many colors. Not a Joseph kind of coat, but more like a Dolly Parton-patch-work-quilt kind of coat. This coat has been stitched together through many years of experience adding patch by patch of various styles, patterns, and textures.

I didn’t make my coat of many colors……it made me. Through years and years, as each patch has been added, it formed me and shaped me and my life would be impacted by each little part.

My coat – this glorious, rich mish-mash of vibrant colors, is my church history, or rather, my spiritual formation…….my interdenominationalism, if you please.

Throughout my life, I have been a part of several different denominations. I have known the expressive excitement of a charismatic service and the intense spiritual warfare of a Pentecostal service. I have understood grace from the Southern Baptist church.  And I have learned the deep respect for the elements of communion in the Episcopal Church, just to name a few.

There’s been one common thread through this patchwork journey. I didn’t really see it as it was happening. But, I can look back and realize that God has been faithfully knitting my coat of many colors to form me into His image, to teach me and grow me into the person He desires me to be.

Coat of Many Colors

Coat of Many Colors (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yes, sometimes I wish my coat was made of one complete fabric, uniform in texture, style and color. A fashion statement. I wish I could have a long-standing history at one place, one congregation. It would be easier, and so much more comfortable, to slide into a well-worn, familiar coat. Instead, the patches of my coat have been pieced together in an unpredictable way. And, I’ve never gotten used to my heart breaking over one patch ending and the uncertainty of another patch beginning.

Oh, but I wouldn’t trade a thing for the lessons or the journey of how this coat has shaped me…and continues still even now.

And the people…. oh, the people! For each church in which I have worshipped, there have been pastors, mentors, and kindred spirits who have blessed and enriched my life. They are like threads of gold and silver woven into the fabric of my being. So many precious friends have been like beautiful buttons or beads carefully sewn into the patches to adorn my coat to make it not just valuable but priceless. I can’t imagine my life without all these brothers and sisters I have met along the way.

My coat of many colors isn’t finished. I don’t if it ever will be. I don’t know what the final product will look like. But I do know that I can trust the Master Weaver to knit and weave with wisdom and beauty until I am complete. Just like Dolly’s coat was made with maternal love, my coat is made with Eternal Love.

I cherish my coat of many colors my Father made for me.

~Amy

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The God-box

We draw for ourselves these neat, little boxes in which to organize our lives. Work goes here, family goes there, church goes over here and so on. Our lives are sorted and labeled like a beautiful closet from The Container Store (I wish!). Among all those compartments, probably somewhere close to the “church” box, is our box for God.

For some, this box is well-worn and used often. For others, it is dusted off on special days. Still, for others, there are painful memories or hurts tying tight knots around the box. And, even still, for some people, the God-box is rediscovered after cleaning out that closet and finding it way back in the corner, rediscovering it from years long ago.

No matter the condition of our God-box, we still try to put God in a box. Because we are human flesh and bone, it is so difficult to understand with our finite minds God- who is All-Powerful, All-Seeing, and All-Knowing. We can’t wrap our minds around it. So, we form our ideas of who God is, how He relates to us or how He acts based on the boundaries of our box. This box in which we try to contain God is shaped by our spiritual formation (or lack thereof), good and bad church experiences, and even our preferences for worship.

The problem with this God-box is that it limits our thinking. It limits our belief. It limits our faith.

When we think according to the boundaries of our God-box, then we live out those boundaries with “God only works this way….God only moves here”. We get so used to  living and thinking this way that we fall prey to the idea that God only moves according to our own box and that any other way is not God. We get stuck in a rut….Prayer means only this. Church means only that. Worship means only this.  But, God cannot be confined to our thinking or our way of doing things.

I remember a time when my thinking and beliefs were being challenged. I felt very uncomfortable about it. It felt like the floor under me was tilting sideways and everything around me was sliding down, and we were going to slip right off into nothing-ness. But then, I grasped onto the fact that God is bigger than any of our interpretations, preferences, or human thinking. I took refuge in the fact that God is bigger than any of us, and He’s got it under control (even if that feels kinda scarey).

So, the good news is that God will lovingly work within our box to bring us to him and help us grow. And what’s even more wonderful is when we open the lid and allow God to be bigger than our boxed-in boundaries, then God will fill our hearts. And when God fills our hearts, there are no limits to what He can do in us!

I encourage you to examine your God-box. Do you limit God in your life or in your thinking? Do you allow God to work only in certain ways? How would if feel to let God out of your box to allow Him to move differently in your life…your church….or your family?

~Amy

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On the Outside of the Circle

She sat across the table from me. She didn’t say a word. We were a bunch of women who  attended a workshop together, so the hotel restaurant seated us at one table. Some ladies knew each other and chatted away about this and that. Most of us were strangers. I knew a couple of ladies on my left and spoke to them occasionally, but mostly, I watched the others around me.

I watched to see if any of the other ladies would strike up a conversation with the woman seated across from me.  I thought that maybe I should talk to her. But, I was stubborn. I was grumpy for being at this particular restaurant. I had wanted to go some place else, but for the sake of the group, I went with what they wanted. I selfishly thought “I always talk first, let somebody else talk, why doesn’t someone talk to me??” (Yes, there was a little pity party going in my head) So, I sat there, ate my chicken, and observed.

She waited for her food, ate her hamburger in silence, and left.

I was saddened that no one around that table said a word to this woman. She wasn’t included in any of their conversations. Then again, I was guilty too. I didn’t say a word to her either:/

Why is it we stay in our groups and keep to ourselves? Why is it so hard to widen our circles just a bit to include someone sitting just on the outside? Why is it we sit at the table and just talk to the people we know? At work? At a restaurant? At church??

Maybe some of you are better at it than I. Maybe you don’t let these opportunities walk away like I did. Maybe I’m a little sensitive to this subject. Oh I know…some of us are shyer than others, and some of us are more outgoing. I have to admit that its hard for me to open up with a new person until I feel comfortable with her. But, I’ve been on the other side too. I’ve sat on the outside waiting for someone to talk to me. I’ve been the newcomer awkwardly hoping to get in on the conversation. It’s not enjoyable. So, maybe that’s why I notice it.

So, I’m trying to be better. I am trying to include the newbie, notice the one off to herself, and reach out to make that connection. I’m not going to let a woman walk away without saying something to her anymore. It doesn’t come naturally to me, but I’m trying. I’m trying to be better because relationships, friendships and connections are the silver and gold, the real stuff that matters. Eternal.

What has been your experience? Is it easy for your to strike a conversation with anyone?Have you ever been on the outside of the circle?

~Amy

 

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Silver and Gold

“Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other gold.  A circle’s round it has no end, that’s how long I want to be your friend.”

Life is not about the stuff you accumulate or how much money you make. It’s not about your achievements or the letters behind your name.  It’s not about what you drive or your net worth.

Life is about Silver and Gold. It’s about friends, old and new. Those precious relationships mined out of life’s ins and outs. The people we meet that make our lives richer.

I’ve been keenly aware of the silver and gold in my own life this summer: A day at the pool,  sending that selfie from a dressing room ‘does this dress work?’, catching up on the phone, stopping by the office for a quick hug, planning a meet-up on Facebook, attending a difficult life changing event, inviting some over for a party, staying over for dinner, sharing revelations, and studying Truth. All of it precious. All of them Silver and Gold.

We can’t make it without friends. We need that wide circle of friends to cheer for us and have fun. We need that tight circle of confidants to tell us, “Girl, you’d better put that down!” We need that one kindred spirit to whisper those secrets of the heart. We need to nourish these relationships because we draw so much nourishment from them.

As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend. Proverbs 27:17

I love it that I get sharpened by my Silver and Gold. Keeps me humble. Gets me loved. Lets me grow. Makes me More than I am.

Who are your Silver and Gold? Don’t let them tarnish. Polish them as often as possible. In turn, they will polish you, sharpen you. And, you will never be left empty.

~Amy

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All of You…Together

womenofthewaytn:

The Summer Series is off to a great start! This is a reminder of why we are gathering……

Originally posted on Women of the Way:

1 Corinthians 3:16-23

16 Don’t you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in[a] you?17 God will destroy anyone who destroys this temple. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.18 Stop deceiving yourselves. If you think you are wise by this world’s standards, you need to become a fool to be truly wise.19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness to God. As the Scriptures say,“He traps the wise    in the snare of their own cleverness.”[b20 And again,“The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise;    he knows they are worthless.”[c]

21 So don’t boast about following a particular human leader. For everything belongs to you—22 whether Paul or Apollos or Peter,[d] or…

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