Friday, August 11, 2006

Sermon from a Rock Star

The biggest surprise of the WCA Leadership Summit so far has been a video interview with U2's Bono. I was prepared to be underwhelmed based on nothing but other's derision of his do-gooder attitude and misrepresentation of his statements and my general disregard of the integrity, intelligence and relevance of celebrities. I was persuaded in spite of myself.

This is a man whose Christianity is real, and who shares my disdain, frustration and disappointment in the church in general who act as if sin is a surprise to God, and who measure certain sins and appearances as vitally important and either don't understand or don't practice grace and mercy. These are the part of the body of Christ who seem prone to anger at sinners, who look at the world and expect Ward and June Cleaver. These are the same people who have made themselves irrelevant in this world. They are the salt that has lost its savor. They are who I am terrified of becoming and who I am ashamed to have been.

Bono sees a church that has refused to be part of the problem of worldwide poverty, pandemics such as AIDS, injustice, segregation, racism, and who look at the sin of corporate greed as somehow less important--less sinful than sexual immorality.

Measure me. See if I live what I believe. At the moment I do not. Oh, I support Compassion, but I haven't visited a prisoner in ages. I haven't visited the hospitalized, the elderly, feed the hungry, given drink to the thirsty, clothed the poor, comforted the fatherless and widows. At least not much, and not as a regular part of my life. Hold me accountable. I must seek out opportunities to visit the imprisoned and to care for the homeless, the poor, the sick.

I am challenged once again to live my faith. Not merely to show grace and mercy to the fallen, but to be the hands and arms and feet of God.

We have been so blessed in this country, how are we going to use those blessings to ease the suffering of the world? How am I going to use my resources to ease the suffering of the world? Is this the primary source of my depression? Is it that I have made no impact in my world? I feel in me the longing for greatness--not as some would define it, but for relevance, for impact. My small life is a waste of the goodness and mercy of God. I have received too much from my Creator to keep it to myself.

Once I heard Rush Limbaugh talk about the tendency for Americans to rush for Prozac to cure their depression without taking the time to work out what is really bothering them and making changes in their lives. Now I confess that I don't necessarily want to pattern my life after El Rushbo, but I have thought a lot about that statement, particularly in light of my recent gloom. I am taking serious stock of what I want to do with the rest of my life and how I want to accomplish it.

Hopefully, if I have done this right, you will now see a banner on this page for This organization is working to really make a difference in global poverty. Joining together we can speak out together for the cause of justice as I believe Scripture talks about--cancelling the debt of the poor, and helping the impoverished, the widows and orphans. Let us no longer simply make lip service and call out "Brother, be warmed and filled," then go on our way feeling as if we have done our part. The only difference between the sheep and the goats is what they did and didn't do. Look up the organization. If you still want to know more about why I am supporting this organization after checking them out, ask me. No pressure on you at all. I just want to keep it real and let you know what I'm thinking about.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Leadership Summit

First: apparently there is no rift between my brother and I. He called a couple of days ago and there was no hint of anger or discord at all. Great big whew!

Today began the WCA Leadership Summit. 20 people from my church are joining tens of thousands of leaders from all over the world through a live simulcast in learning about all aspects of leadership and all aspects of leadership within the church. Going feels fraudulent to me, as I tend to think of a leader as the head of a department or ministry or the pastor, but certainly not me. There is that in me that aspires to leadership, but I find it a bit frightening to be considered a leader in the church. It is a grave responsibility and not to be taken lightly. That being said, there are things I want to teach/share that God has shown me, things that I see other women needing to know.

I have so many flaws that seem to me to eliminate me from a leadership role. The depression that I have admitted to, the health issues that cause such fatigue, an inherent laziness, my weight, my temper, and so many other things. I think of a leader as strong, confident, together. But when I think about leaders in the Bible, Moses, David, Paul, are all flawed individuals. Moses seemed to be a man lacking in confidence, yet God used him to lead the nation. David trusted God, yet he committed grave sin. Despite that he was called a man after God's own heart. Paul not only persecuted Christians before he was called by the Lord, he had such a problem with a fellow worker that the team split, yet God used him mightily and restored the relationship later on.

We expect perfection from leaders, and often show no mercy when they fall, but that is NOT what God does. God uses flawed people. However, sometimes sin does eliminate us from a futher blessing, as when Moses died without reaching the Promised Land. He got to look at it, but he didn't cross the river.

Anyway, I'm at the Summit and the first speaker actually says "Keep on leading". It could not have been more clear. I was considering quitting teaching, unsure whether I was really a leader, but I believe I need to pick up the book, study and prepare and plan for a larger group. I am also, once again seriously thinking about two things: prison ministry and homeless outreach. These two things have stuck with me for a long time, coming up time and time again. I'm not sure exactly what shape that should take, and since we don't have a ministry in place, I need to be prepared to put one in place if I am to mention this.

Still, Jesus talked about this in his sheep and the goats speech. Matt. 25:32-46, one of the most convicting passages in the Bible:

And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth [his] sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.

Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed [thee]? or thirsty, and gave [thee] drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took [thee] in? or naked, and clothed [thee]? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done [it] unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done [it] unto me.

Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did [it] not to one of the least of these, ye did [it] not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.

What makes the difference between the sheep and the goats? Everytime I read this or hear it read from the pulpit I hear Keith Green: "The only difference between the sheep and the goats is what they did and didn't do."

Well, I want to be a sheep. I want to be told "well, done". I want to hear "you've done it unto me."

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Explain Men to Me, Please and The Fog is Lifting

It's Steve's birthday today. As usual, I managed to completely underwhelm him, and since he doesn't want me spending any money, there were no gifts for him at all. It sucks. I feel really bad. He is so good about gifts usually, but he almost never likes what I get for him. I looked for stuff, but took Alex with me, who shot down every idea I had.

Apparently the only appropriate gift for men (or at least for Steve, Craig or Alex) is expensive electronics. we're talking a $400 game system, several hundred dollars for a new TV, expensive video games, stereos, whatever. What's the deal? A $25 gift card for Borders works for me. Can someone explain this to me?

What would you like for your birthday?
World Peace.
How about something that is possible?
Okay. A Harley.
The new XBox 360 with games.
Right. Anything that could be purchased without filing for bankruptcy?
World Peace.
Oh good. A card it is then. I love you.


Okay, maybe I was a bit quick to announce my meltdown. Well, maybe I couldn't get better until I faced it, thought about what was happening and really identified what I needed to do, admitted to people the struggle. Basically brought my depression into the light of day and quit trying to hide it.
Confession is good for the soul.
Anyway, I thought a lot about it, prayed about it, determined a course of action, embarrassed myself by putting it out there for anyone to read, and today the depression is lifting. Not that things are great. The credit account we use to help float the business, giving us another 30-45 days has been cut to a third of what it has been, really forcing us to alter the way we do business. Money is a struggle, but I have to remember, again and again and again, that whatever I have is enough by definition. And while I think that things should be different because that is what I see around me, what I must do is to discipline my mind to gratitude and appreciation. I am not supposed to look around me and compare myself to what I see, but look at scripture and compare my life to truth. If I do that, I am taking myself outside of some cultural norm and placing myself inside universal truth. I'm not sure that states clearly what I mean so let me say it another way. I live in America with American expectations regarding money, possessions and more. What I need is to understand finances and possessions in a more universal way, to escape my cultural understanding and find what Scripture says without that filter blinding me to truth.
What I did wrong is I signed up for a conference through my church, on the assumption that I would have made the money by now.
I haven't broken even yet. Real Estate is a great business, but it is very expensive to start out. $800 for this, $400 for that, monthly expenses, annual expenses, marketing, technology fees, internet fees...and that's before you list a property. It costs a minimum of $500 to market a single property. Now I have obligated myself to $200 that I simply don't have. So if you know someone who wants to buy a sewing machine or three, I have several for sale. I have a treadle machine without the base, with the lovely filigree. Another black Singer with the beautiful filigree painting, electric. A Pfaff machine. It's really lovely, but lost a few small pieces in the move. It's a great machine. I actually have 4 or 5 machines. I keep winding up with machines over the years. I really love sewing machines, but for someone who doesn't really sew, owning this many machines is crazy.
I'm going to have to pass on all such invitations/opportunities unless the money is in hand. I just can't do this. I can't handle having this hanging over my head, but I have been unable to find someone to take my spot.
The really great news is that my brother called me out of the blue without a hint of anger or resentment. I'm so happy. I hung up the phone with tears of happiness. For whateer reason, I needed to get past this depression without knowing whether things were okay between us or not. But I'm so happy he called. On my list of favorite people, he is right up near the top, and to have him mad at me is awful.

Monday, August 07, 2006


Why art thou depressed? Let me count the reasons.

1. Financial. The up and down nature of our construction business. Even when we have a lot of work, it is difficult to get paid for the work we have done. This is a constant struggle and it's driving me nuts. After a while I start thinking, why, Lord? Why can't we just have one month where people pay what they owe on time and we can meet our obligations on time? Why am I constantly going around like the beggar child, unable to pay my own way for a conference I need to go to, pay my real estate bills on time, or some of the simple things I ask? Am I asking too much? A birthday comes and catches me short, though a few days later the money comes in and we're fine. After church on Sunday a whole group of people go out to eat, a great social/fellowship occasion which I frequently cannot do. I cannot keep my hair appointment due to lack of funds. Lord, what am I to learn here? Am I asking too much? Do I need to simply say no to everything that costs money since I cannot plan ahead? Do I need to look at my spending again and reevaluate every dime to see where I am wasting money I could be saving? Did I need this as a reminder of how stressful it is to live under constant money pressure to reignite my compassion for those struggling within our church? Do I need this myself to learn (again) to completely throw myself upon the mercy and provision of God. Jehovah Jireh. None of us has anything except as it comes from the hand of God. Steve Thurman, founding pastor of Fellowship Bible Church in Colorado Springs, told me that many years ago. I've never forgotten it, though at times I struggle with the timing of is provision. I need to repent. In my arrogance, I have decided once again that He is not dealing well with me, and that he should manage our provision differently. I have forsaken trust.

2. Work. No, I mean my other work. Real Estate. While I often talk about how much I love real estate, and I do, this year has been really tough. Spring and Summer, when the business is supposed to be at its vibrant best, have been slower than slow. I have taken a hard look at myself and I dislike the person I see. I want to be more outgoing. I like people, really I do, but I don't seem to vibrate that as some people do. People aren't naturally drawn to me. So I have to figure out something different. A different approach. Again, I have forsaken what I believe. I believe that God made me exactly the way he wanted me for his own purposes and designs, but I keep telling the potter that he got it all wrong. I want to be the hard-charging, outgoing, type-A, but I wasn't made that way.

3. Family. Although I am determined to ignore what is happening with my parents, I have not managed to do so thus far. I need to learn how to seperate myself emotionally from the situation. Also, I have been so hurt and angry that my brother is mad at me and I need to forgive the hurt feelings, do whatever I can to mend the relationship and to move on. You can't make someone forgive you, and you often don't understand how what you said or did affects the other person. I'll concede that he may be silent right now for other reasons having nothing to do with any held grudge. The entire thing may be in my fertile imagination which says that no response means no acceptance of my apology and thus no forgiveness. And even if I am reading the situation correctly, I must learn to let him deal with his own stuff and learn not to take it personally. Do what I can to mend the situation "as much as it depends on you" as the verse says. I need to throw the entire family thing into the hands of God and ask him to bear the stress and anxiety. "Be anxious for nothing..."

I think that's enough for one day. I'll be mulling this over today as I seek to come to terms with God and to avail myself of the "mind of Christ". I do not believe that Christ wallowed in depression, and if I am to put on the mind of Christ, I need to think as he thinks. Oh fill me again, and remove those things in me that keep me from trust, from faith, from utter dependence, and restore to me a grateful dependence on you, Lord. Help me to rely utterly on your provision in all my ways. Direct my paths O Lord and let me not be ashamed of how you are dealing with me. Teach me to number my days, to take stock of what I should and should not be doing. Teach me dependence on you and let me walk in the sweetness of your presence with joy. Restore to me that joy, Lord. Forgive me for my anger and my despair. Forgive me for wanting to design myself in my own way, and for wishing to be other than as you have made me. You are the Creator. You are the all-knowing, all-loving, all sufficient one. Thank you that in your mercy you don't squash me when I, in my arrogance, presume to know better than you. I need the mind of Christ. I need so desperately to think the way you think and to love the way you love, to put others before myself and to walk humbly in obedience. I need you, o Lord, with each breath I need you. I am a vacuum without you, utterly empty and so needy.

Sunday, August 06, 2006


Today I have come face to face with a fact I do not want to admit. I am depressed. Not kind of, not a little bit, not mildly, but I have now hit a real bonafide depression. Evidence: not canceling appointments as soon as I knew there was a conflict, and letting the appointment come and go without canceling. Evidence: exhaustion. Evidence: despite visits from some of my closest friends over the past three weeks, there is no continued lift in spirits once they have gone. Evidence: I was invited to go on a trip and I have turned it down. Even without the evidence, I know the way I feel.

So far this is not the bone-crushing depression I have experienced in the past, but from here I know the slope can be dangerously slick. When I get like this I don't want to be around people, even though it is probably best for me to be. It is difficult to do things I should unless they are strictly necessary or urgent.

I hate to do it, but if this doesn't lift in the next couple of weeks I will have to go back on anti-depressants. What causes the chemical imbalance that causes this I don't know, and as far as I understand no one else really does either. I guess we don't even know if some stressful event or wrong thinking causes the depression which changes the chemical balance in your brain or if it is the chemical imbalance that makes you more susceptible to stress. It doesn't really matter, the medications tend to work, at least for the most part.

There is still a part of me that feels great shame at this weakness. I would rather hibernate and wallow than let people know what is going on.

As to cause, well, the recent discord in the family has really upset me, my allergies are really off the charts, and I've been hurting a lot.

Frankly, I'm angry about the family discord, particularly the stuff aimed at me. Angry because I don't know what to do, Angry because I've been doing the best I knew how all along, but don't get credit for that, and really hurt that my apology has not been accepted. I have decided that I am no longer paying any attention to the regular news updates on the family situation. I simply cannot handle it. It seems that the expectation is that I will have no reaction to the health reports, near death episodes, stressing out, etc., which seems ridiculous to me. I guess for my own sanity I am going to ignore the situation. If anyone wants help, they can ask for it. I'm not good at merely listening to problems and commiserating without any action steps. I think that is what is expected. Listen, nod and murmur understanding syllables, but take no action, formulate no plans, do nothing. Not my strong suit. I'm a problem-solver. Analyze the situation, look for options and determine the best course of action.

Possible course of action to alieviate depression symptoms: walk, eat decent food regularly, no junk food, good music, garden, meditate on God's goodness, pray for God's healing and intervention, and look at the things going on in my life that I need to change or accept...basically deal with my stuff.

In the meantime, covering up is not an option, though it is what I would prefer. I dislike being vulnerable and allowing people the opportunity to look down on me for this weakness. Perhaps I should just allow myself to cry.