Who Am I.

You may have read my recent post Who Are You WIthout Your Phone? Well, our latest dinner table discussion probes a little further with an even more foundational, yet very basic question. Simply: Who Am I?

From that one question there is one truth for all of us. Yet, from that one question it manifests itself differently in each of us. At our table it went something like this…

  • Who Am I if I strike out?
  • Who Am I if I lose the Student Council election?
  • Who Am I if I don’t get an “A” on the test?
  • Who Am I if I look bad in front of someone else?
  • Who Am I if no one reads my blog?
  • Who Am I if the scale goes up a pound?
  • Who Am I if my house is not picked up?
  • Who Am I if I forgot to make my son a testing poster?
  • Who Am I if I don’t give a good sermon?
  • Who Am I if I don’t get my 10,000 steps in?
  • Who Am I if I can’t be all things to all people?

You may identify with some of these, but you will have your own list that hits you personally. Your own expectations that if not met make you feel like a failure. Or, convince you that others see you as a failure.

But the truth behind every one of these things are the issues of identity and idolatry.  If Who I Am is based on measuring up, fulfilling or succeeding in these things than that is how I will determine my worth. So when I fail I will have to work harder so that I am viewed better. And the more I look to these things for my identity the bigger the idol of having to have it becomes.

But what if instead our children could rest and be OK if they strike out, lose an election, fail a test, look like a fool in front of someone?

What if instead we could rest and be OK if we are not always the perfect parent, the super volunteer, the best hostess, the most successful or even when we disappoint someone else’s expectations?

The only way we can do this – to rest and be OK – is if our identity is rooted in Christ. If we see that His love was set upon us before the foundation of the earth.  If we understand it is His righteous robes we wear.  If we believe He had to suffer and die to give us life.  If we trust that His grace is so sufficient that even when we fail Him or others, He won’t let go of us. If we know His opinion is the only one that matters and His opinion declares us Sons and Daughters of the King!  

Only then it won’t matter what others think. We won’t have to turn to all those idols for our identity because we will rest knowing we have His delight.  If only we could get this, it would save us a lot of worry and striving. By His grace I hope we do!

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But Is He, Your Hosanna King?

IMG_4885This morning in our church, like in many of yours, the childen participated in worship by waving palm branches as we sang “All Glory, Laud, and Honor”. Echoing the praise of the people when Jesus humbly rode in to Jerusalem on a donkey proclaiming,

“Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”

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But as you are probably familiar, in a matter of days the tide turned and the same people who hailed His name now rejected Him as their Messiah. They lost faith that He was really who He said He was.

How quickly they turned from “Lord, Lord”.  Just as the Israelites before them so quickly forgot the Lord’s faithfulness in bringing them out of Egypt. And just as we, too, forget and fail to see who He is for us.

We jump on the Jesus band-wagon for Easter or Christmas, for church or para-church events, camps and retreats or when we are around certain people. We praise His names with our lips, “Lord, Lord” but our hearts are far from Him.

  • Why is this? Why do we proclaim Him to be the King, but don’t live devoted to Him?
  • Why do we call Him Redeemer, but turn to everything else to give us life?
  • Why do we come to Him when we need His help, but reject Him when all is well? Or, maybe praise Him for the good things and denounce Him when suffering comes?
  • Why do say we need Jesus, but live as if it is our own righteousness that merits a good standing?

There is a disconnect between what we say to be true and how we really live and think. A disconnect that occurs when Jesus alone is not proclaimed. When we don’t see clearly who He is and what He did for us. Yes, He died on the cross for our sins. But just as important is He lived the perfect life on our behalf.

Therefore, I must boast in His righteousness for me, not my own. I can be free to admit my sin and know my standing before Him never changes. I don’t have to pretend I have it all together. I can admit my need.

But if we don’t see He is everything we are not than we miss the point of the gospel. We focus on what we need to do to be better instead of finding freedom in His grace and who He is for me. We think of Christianity as rules and behavior, instead of a Person.  

If this is the case, why would we stand awestruck in glory, laud and honor?  

So take this Easter week to ponder who He is and what He did for you.

“And when I think that God, his Son not sparing, sent him to die, I scarce can take it in. That on the cross, my burdens gladly bearing, He bled and died to take aways my sin.”

Scarcely take it in… Is that how we feel?

If not, seek out a church that preaches Jesus + Nothing so that you are in awe of Him. Only with eyes taken off yourself and on to Him will you continually cry “How great Thou art!” and see your need not just this week, but every hour, every day.

“Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”

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Never Fully Dressed Without A Smile

Do you remember that song from the the musical Annie? 

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At one time I was obsessed with all Annie songs, but hadn’t thought of it in a long time until seeing the phrase posted by a friend on Facebook.  When I read it, I immediately tapped “like”.  A good reminder that you can be the most impeccably dressed, well put together person, but without a smile appear stand-offish and distant instead of drawing others in.

But, what about those days when you don’t have a smile to put on?

That was me a few days later.  I had to go to my retail job where I am around people all day long and need to smile.  As I was dressing the phrase popped in to my head again and I thought I can put on these nice clothes, but the last thing in the world right now that I want to wear is a smile!

And thoughout the day as guests came in to the store and we exchanged the typical “How are you?” greetings, I felt conflicted about speaking a lie everytime I answered “fine” or “I’m well, thank you”.  Really though, what stranger wanted to hear otherwise? For that matter, not just strangers, but friend? Mmmm.  This got me thinking…

How can we not close ourselves off from others when we don’t wear a smile? Can we find a smile by sharing the pain?  Why do we not really say how we are? Why do we put on the masks and pretend life is great? 

I think the answer is two-fold.

First, we are afraid. Afraid to confide. Afraid to be honest. Afraid to be judged. Afraid to look bad. Afraid to be known. Afraid others can’t handle our “mess”.

On the flip side, there is a lot of truth as to why we would be afraid.   Others do judge. Others don’t have time. Others don’t really want to know or get involved. So others don’t really ask to hear the truth.

If we are honest we fall on to both sides at different times.  But this is not how God wants us to live. We are called to invest in one another’s lives.  To be the hands and feet of Christ. To reflect His image to one another.  And how can we do this without being known and knowing the needs of another?

Obviously this doesn’t mean we must share everything with every person. But do you share with some person? Do you have safe relationships or do you keep it all hidden?  Do you seek others out and try to invest in their lives or are you too self-focused in your own routine?

For those days when it is hard to wear a smile or even impossible to put one on, you need to know God is with you. You need to know He draws near to the broken-hearted. You need to know that He came and suffered and understands all that you are going through. You need to know that His love for His children is fierce and cannot be changed, even when circumstances seem to say otherwise. Even so and especially then, you need to know His face still shines upon you and you have His smile.

Apart from His Word, how can you know and be comforted by these truths?

Only by the investment of a friend. A friend who can pour out His love to you and speak joy when you have no smile.  

And when you do, seek out those who need a listening ear and the smile of a friend.

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Who Are You Without Your Phone?

This is the question my husband recently asked our sophomore daughter.

He had just watched and agreed with the reasons behind secular comedian Louis C.K. not allowing his kids to have phones. The fact this man was not speaking from a Christian perspective and took serious enough the negatitive effect of being tied to our phones is what struck him (link here).

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Though we aren’t pulling the plug on phones, we are having conversations. Not just with our kids, but ourselves and others.

So… Who are you without your phone? Or, I might add- your computer?

By this I mean, when you are alone without technology, what do you think about? Feel? Do?

  • When was the last time you were alone…without technology?
  • Was it hard? Why?
  • Did you feel like you were missing out on something?
  • Were you bored? 
  • Are you afraid to be alone with your thoughts? emotions?
  • Do you stay connected so you don’t have to deal with reality?

Over Spring Break we were in the car without a charger so our kids were forced to just sit there after their phones and iTouch died.  After some time our daughter broke the silence with,

“Dad, I’ve been thinking about what you said about my phone and I see what you mean.”

Our ears perked up.  

Initially when he had asked the question it was not the most well-received. Now a few days later she saw that she was having a hard time sitting still and didn’t know what to do with herself without constantly checking Twitter, Instagram, sending SnapChats and texting. Without all those things she felt lost.

Is it possible that we are so in touch with what the world is doing at all times that we’ve lost touch with who we are?

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We don’t know how to just be by ourselves without sharing every moment with the world or knowing what everybody else is doing. As a result we’ve built this false sense of community. We think we have so many “friends” because we are connected so broadly and share LOLs. But, then when we are actually with people in person, what do we do?

Check our phones!

Whether we are alone… Or with a crowd… Or feeling alone in a crowd, we check our phone.

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And in the process have kept ourselves so busy and preoccupied that we don’t know how to just be. Or, what to think about about other than what we are missing. Or, simply just talk to whoever we are near (without having to make it a photo op moment). 

As this reality settled in during our car ride, our daughter decided to delete her Twitter app off her phone for a time.  It’s been a struggle, but after a week she reported getting more sleep, focusing more on her homework and turning to the Word.  All blessings and things my teenager needs.

She has also sat on her bed… bored.

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  • With our phones having become such time-sucking fillers, what are we neglecting?  
  • How is it affecting our relationships and how we relate?
  • How is it affecting how we view our lives in light of all the beautiful happy people we see on-line 24/7?  
  • Who are we on our own without worrying about the world or who the world sees us to be?

Have we already become so shaped by that standard that we can’t see the joy in simplicity, quiet, mundane, normal, routine, home, family, Christ?

As always I would love to hear your thoughts, knowing there aren’t hard and fast answers or across-the-board rules, but hopefully just by raising some questions we will find a way to not lose touch with our inner being and time for real faces, while still enjoying our social media lives.

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Why Education is Rallying My Political Past

Once upon a time, more than a decade ago, I was in politics. My life has been reinvented many times over with lots of different hats, but that was my career. I worked for Senators, Congressmen and two Texas Governors, one of whom is better knows as a former President.

With former President George HW Bush, then Florida Governor Jeb Bush and then Governor George W. Bush

With former President George HW Bush, then Florida Governor Jeb Bush and then Governor George W. Bush

With Texas Senators Phil Gramm and Kay Bailey Hutchison and the Singing Senators. Have you see the House of Cards episode where Congressman Underwood sings with his old college buddies? Think maybe idea came from the real-life Singing Senators.

With Texas Senators Phil Gramm and Kay Bailey Hutchison and the Singing Senators. Have you see the House of Cards episode where Congressman Underwood sings with his old college buddies? Think maybe idea came from the real-life Singing Senators.

With longest serving Texas Governor Rick Perry

With longest serving Texas Governor Rick Perry

While my job made being knowledgeable of the issues of the day easier, I was on the money-side.  More preoccupied with raising thousands of dollars from “influential” people, attending cush events and jumping in for the photo-ops (as you can see) than engaging in meaningful conversation about the implications of specifcs bills and issues.

And to be honest, since my consulting days came to a close and I have also since moved states, the side of me that loved politics has laid dormant. Not that I don’t have opinions or care, just too busy with more personal issues.

But what is happening with education is personal!

If we don’t wake up and pay attention the issue at hand will effect our children greatly.  I am talking specifically about what is going on in my state with the funding shortage, but I imagine this may be happening in other states too.

My school district alone will experience a $4 million shortfall just next year. That translates in to administrators not being able to hire the number of teachers necessary, leading to the over-sized classrooms that parents are already complaining about growing even larger. And this is not the fault of the schools!

In years to come, this will effect the future of extra-curricular activities and athletics, too. Every public school student and family, teacher and administrator, as well as, communities will feel the effects, one way or the other.

That is why the Rally for Education being held tomorrow at the Oklahoma state capitol is so important.

It is about the future of our children and state of our schools. It is about legislators coming up with the money even though it will mean taxes passed on to some of their “influential” donors. Can they stand up to the politics? Will corporations and individuals support them and sacrifice because they understand why new or higher taxes have to happen? 

I hope so.  While I can’t personally attend the rally, I have written a letter to my legislator.  I have seen why I must put my political hat back on and pay attention. And I know our schools and teachers who tirelessly give of themselves for our kids’ good, yet are often met with misdirected and misinformed complaints, deserve our united support! 

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For more information about what is happening in Oklahoma: http://www.okedcoalition.org

That’s the Worst!

Comedian Tim Hawkins has a shtick poking fun of all the things we dramatically designate as “The Worst“. Our family saw him Live a couple months ago and ever since have become keenly aware of how often we do in fact bemoan the most trivial incidents as “The Worst.”

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A few examples of what I’m talking about from Spring Break week…

Landing at the airport on time, but having to wait at baggage claim for 30+ minutes.

THAT’S THE WORST!

Forgetting a phone charger for the rental car and the kids’ cell phones and iTouch run out of batteries so they just have to sit there.

THAT’S THE WORST!

Playing Mexican Train Dominos and the person right before you plays in the spot you needed to win.

THAT’S THE WORST!

Skiing a black run and getting stuck on top of a mogul with no good option to turn.

THAT’S THE WORST!

Obviously none of these things are THE WORST, but pay attention and I bet you call things like this THE WORST, too!  The saying is now a family joke for us and we go over-board exaggerating how whatever-it-is really is THE WORST. Without fail this always leads to lots of laughs… 

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And as a bonus- a renewed perspective.

Laughter and thanksgiving served as good medicine this week as a slew of incidents more aptly categorized (at least more so than the above listed situations) as THE WORST also occurred.

For starters, after flying to Denver and finally getting our luggage :) we had an approximate four hour drive to our destination. But a wreck completely shut down the highway leaving traffic at a stand-still with no options. This three hour delay kept us from our original dinner time arrival putting us in past 11pm.

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THAT’S THE WORST!

While in the car I developed an extremely queazy stomach and could not even take a sip of Sprite without feeling like I might throw up. Definitely not what we needed while literally stuck on the highway with no restroom.

THAT’S THE WORST!

Unfortunately my stomach bug lasted in to the next day and ended up wiping out one of the boys and then my dad, too. So much for enjoying the gorgeous day on the slopes, instead we were stuck inside feeling miserable.

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THAT’S THE WORST!

The rest of the family did venture on to the mountain that day only for my husband to realize once at the top that our youngest (who hasn’t skiied in three years and was in first grade at the time) really had no business being up there without lessons. Much to my husband’s frustration, our son couldn’t even snowplow and had to take off his skis and hike 1/2 way down!  

THAT’S THE WORST!

Finally, the next day (of course now windy and cold) the five of us skied. The boys were in ski school and as I was waiting for their return at the end of the day I received a call notifying me that both boys had just injured their backs in an attempted 1/2 pipe jump. (Yes, beginners! Why they thought that would be a good idea is beyond me!)

One was being taken down to the mountain clinic in a stretcher, the other on a snowmobile to where I was waiting. The one at the clinic could barely move and it was advised he may need X-rays to check out his ribs and kidney.

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THAT’S THE WORST!

We took the next day off, however, the trip did take a turn for the better after that. But even with the challenging first few days the reality is still none of that was THE WORST it could be.

Afterall, here we were in the beautiful Rocky Mountains taking in God’s glorious creation, together with the ones we love most.  

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Relaxing in an inviting home with a toasty fire and a big screen TV with college basketball on.  Eating delicious meals, sleeping in cozy beds, wearing warm clothes with the physical capabilities to even ski at all.

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On top of all that, we have a God who loves us so much that not a hair can fall from our heads without His ordaining. A God so full of grace that even when our finite minds think what we experience is THE WORST because we’ve stopped trusting Him and think we know what is best, He never rejects or condemns us.  

And whether what we go through really is THE WORST or not, all those moments He uses for our good, shaking us out of our self-reliant and sometimes selfish stupors to see our need for Him!

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Do you know what else serves to see Him more clearly? Go back and read Lessons from the Aspen Tree.

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The 100 Mark!

If you have young school-age kids, they may have celebrated the 100th day of school by dressing up as a 100 year-old or bringing 100 items of something. So recently when I noticed that I was on my 97th blog entry, I decided I should celebrate my 100th. 

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Technically this is #101 since I decided to write my Lent thoughts :), but nevertheless I want to take a look back over what I have written over these past 15 months since starting this blog.  Some posts, like one based off Les Miserables, continue to be clicked on and viewed frequently. While there are others that were more or less missed.  Therefore to commemorate hitting 100, I have decided to simply re-share ten posts that I personally want to bring back to life.

Each of the ten transcend time in the sense that they are always relevant even if they were tied to a specific event that led to me writing it. I hope as you have time you will click on some of these links and find food for thought.

Parenting…

Christian Living/Life/Idols/Suffering/Trials…

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