Thursday, April 29, 2010

Why am I a Christian?

Have you ever been part of a group that you didn’t want to be part of? When I was younger I was grouped with the “smart kids” and I didn’t like it. I wanted to be one of the cool kids or pretty kids. But alas, I was a “smart kid.” Of course, I’d love it now if I was considered one of the “smart women.” No one has called me that in a while. Hmmm.

Sometimes I wish I wasn’t part of the “Christian” group. Not because I’d rather be a Buddhist or Muslim, but because when a non-Christian realizes I’m a Christian I can almost see a veil fall over their eyes. The look is a mixture of disdain and fear. Are they worried I will be overly kind to them? Do they begrudgingly say to themselves, “Oh no. Robbie is going to love me again by being friendly and servant-hearted.”


Usually the veil comes because of a previous experience with a Christian that wasn’t kind or loving but one that was judgmental and pushy. The kind of person that are grown in some churches and softened in others.

I don’t like being grouped with them.

But I have been one of them. I’ve judged. I’ve slipped Four Spiritual Law tracks into unsuspecting neighbors’ hands and I’ve left tracts for waitresses where a tip would be so much more welcome. I’ve been that kind of Christian.

And I’m sorry.

Every Christian is told to make Jesus the example of what we should be in our lives. What Would Jesus Do, etc. But most Christians are then taught that to be like Jesus is to try to be in control of everyone’s spirituality around them and to be like Jesus is to keep our noses in the air ready to smell sin. Once the stench comes near us, well, it is then time to condemn. I exaggerate. A little.

I began my Christian journey when I was 8 years old. At 14, I started having fun hanging out with Jesus. But I also was consumed with a list of dos and don’ts. Later in life, I’ve realized that although I was taught the Bible well, there wasn’t a lot of grace in the flannel graph stories.

So why am I a Christian? One word. Jesus. I have developed this consuming love for Him, because He first loved me. Relentlessly. Even when I judged and condemned. Even when I witnessed to someone out of obligation to an organization. Even when I denied that I knew Him. He just wouldn’t let me go.

And now I live a freedom-filled life. Not without pain or defeating circumstances. But a life in which I am proud to tell others that I am me. I’m a wife, a mom, a stepmom, a sister and friend. I’m loud at times. I love to laugh. I have been on a diet for twenty years in which I’ve lost 500 pounds. And gained them back. I still have to tell myself to not judge others, but give them a break and love them. I still have to remind myself that telling others about Jesus is a privilege and a calling that should be joyous. Not obligatory. Not forced.

I am a 47 year old woman who loves and is loved. Mostly by my Lord who gave His life for me and gets a kick out of me and forgives me easily when I blow it.

I love Jesus.

That’s why I am a Christian!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Dear Anne Lamott (or finding my own way)

(Anne Lamott is one of my favorite authors - my favorite book she's written is called Traveling Mercies)

Dear Anne Lamott,

The way you write inspires me. It touches that part of me that wants to be a better story teller, one that paints with words, using all the colors in a box of 64 Crayons or even better, all the shades of the sunset.

The other day I sat in front of my computer for thirty minutes. My mind, blank. White like the screen. My toe tapped underneath the table, mimicking the flashing beat of the cursor. How can I write like you? I cannot.

It would be like trying to grow the exact same rose bushes as my mother did in her garden. Beautiful yellow roses in a small Texas town. Every year she would stand by those bushes and look at them carefully, tilting her head. When I asked her what she was doing, she told me she was deciding which stems to clip in order to make a bouquet for the Culberson County fair. She said making that choice was crucial. Every rose was different. My mother won first prize for years until she quit competing. No need to win anymore, she said.

Even if I knew the exact seeds she planted, the exact treatments of the soil she used and even the exact moments she pruned those bushes, I could never duplicate those wild yellow roses that glistened in the Texas sun on Summer Street.

And as I sat in front of a white screen once again I knew I couldn’t replicate another woman’s talent. Your voice, Anne, reminds me of those roses. Thorns are hidden underneath beauty in every story you write. I cannot grow a rose garden as I write.

I cannot.

But what I can do is plant an orchard. Tall trees that seem to reach out to God and offer Him a juicy apple or a sweet pear. My words, my stories, begin as saplings of ideas. It takes time to nurture those saplings but I love the process. The buds of creative thought pop up as I throw in devices of style. As the fruit makes it appearance, tiny and green, I am spurred to continue editing, to continue watching each story become its own.

However, in the ripening process frost happens. Pages are deleted. Words are uttered under my breath. Phrases like “I will never write again,” and “Maybe I will become an Amway salesperson.”

Sometimes a tree survives and its fruit is spectacular. All the time nourishing my writing grows into a moment of nourishment for someone else. What a spectacular feat. A little miracle of creativity and perseverance.

Anne, I’ll never write like you. I’ll never grow roses like my mom. But I will be the best tree farmer I can be. Sprawling orchards of green with the color of apples and pears peeking through the branches.


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

And Now I Pronounce You...Wrong.

The small group pastor preached last Sunday - our senior pastor was out of town celebrating a new grand child. It is difficult when a sub preaches. Requirements include an adjustment of expectations. So I adjusted. I was ready and open.

He preached on the Good Samaritan, but when he began analyzing the text he used the word "lawyer." He pronounced it lo-yer with a short o sound as in Pa. I've always pronouned the word like loy-yer, as in joy-er.

My mind left the Bible teaching and raced off out of the church. I was distracted.

Years back, John and I attended a wonderful church in San Diego. I remember one particular Sunday I was engrossed in worship, eyes closed, hands up. Beautiful.

My beloved chose that moment to lean over to me and whisper, "Look at the heed (head) on that one." He did this in a Scottish accent like Mike Meyers in the movie "I Married an Axe Murderer."

My eyes popped open, I glanced at John and followed his eyes to someone walking down an aisle. His head was, well, um...big. Really big.


I informed John after that particular Sunday that I'd been in the throne room worshipping when he whispered. It's been a joke ever since. I have had occasion to see something or think something in church and lean over to John and whisper, interrupting his worship, too. When this happens he'll look at me with a mixture of annoyance of love (mostly annoyance) and say "Look at the heed on that one."

Distractions are so easily a part of church, aren't they? I think the enemy loves to tempt us to stray away from a moment with God, be it in listening to the Word being preached or worshipping. I love to be in worship and hang out with God. Sometimes that means I don't hear a thing the preacher says because I am having a conversation with God. Sometimes that means taking notes on what the preacher says and soaking it in. And sometimes that means dancing with my King. Eyes closed, hands up.

But it never means analyzing the diameter of someone's cranium and it doesn't mean leaving because I don't agree with a pronunciation.

I have to make a choice to be engaged with God, even in church. How bout you? How do you handle distractions in church?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

10 Lessons I've Learned in the Last 3 Years Since Moving to Colorado

This is a picture of me just a few weeks after we'd moved.

We moved from San Diego, California to Denver, Colorado in December of 2006, 3 years and four months ago. It was extremely difficult and stressful at first, as any move can be. But now, as I sit and reflect, I discover I've learned valuable lessons since coming to the foothills of the Rockies.

10) I need sunglasses much more here than in California. We are a mile closer to the sun, so when it shines, it can burn your eyeballs.

9) New vocabulary is important - ground blizzards, snow boots, artic front and back-splash. Expanding your lexicon is key when living in a Denver winter.

8) The sun shines here more days than in San Diego. This is true and my brother Phil told me this many times while persuading John and I to move here. What he didn't say was that many of those blue sky sunny days are also 32 degrees. :0)

7) A dog can be a valued member of the family. We adopted Scooby from the Dumb Friends League here in Denver. I never thought I could care for a dog so much. But alas, he has inched his puggle paws into my heart.

6) Writing is an adventure! It wasn't until I moved to Denver that I seriously started writing and submitting my work. In the last 3 years I have had some wonderful successes and some debilatating rejections. The life of a writer is lonely and emotional and I love it!

5) A writing group like Words for the Journey Christian Writers Guild is a gift from God to me. I belonged to a writers group that met once a month for critiques in San Diego, but WFTJ meets once a week with teaching, encouragement, laughter, chocolate and critiques. I am so blessed to be part of it.

4) Writing a weekly devotional is a blessing. This week I wrote my 67th consecutive Joyvotion. Every single time that I sit down and tell God "I have absolutely nothing to say, Lord" He whispers in my ear words for encouragement that I can pass on. What a delicious treat to serve God in this way.

3) I can speak! For most of my life, I've wanted to be a professional Christian speaker. For most of my life, I have listened to the enemy tell me that I was not good enough to stand in front of women and talk. Since coming to Denver, God's truth has been made real in my heart. If I allow Him to be in control, He uses my speaking to bless me and others. I now speak often to women and I am always amazed. God is good!

2) No matter our geography, God is with the Iobsts. Jehovah Shammah, the LORD is there, moved with us. :0) When John went through a horrible motorcycle accident a year ago, God demonstrated love to us by allowing us to bathe in His comforting presence. We see Him in the black sky at night, stars so close we could reach up and unscrew them like light bulbs. John and Noah and I see Him in the glorious mountains, huge protectors that seem to guard our town. And we see Him in the seasons, the silent white snow, the birds' song in spring, the colors of fall and the warmth of summer. He lives in those beautiful waves in the Pacific ocean, but He is also present here. And everywhere.

And the number one lesson I've learned since moving here:
1) God has woven a tapestry of new and old friends into my heart. When I left San Diego, I believed that I would never make friends like the ones I had in my 20 years there. How in the world would I ever be able to share my heart with someone new? God knew how I felt and has brought such wonderful ladies into my life. Women who encourage me and laugh with me and walk with me. What a blessing to have new and old friends, each precious in my life.

It was the hand of God that moved us here. And He has proven Himself faithful again and again.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Just an Ordinary Trip to Walmart

Like dental work, grocery shopping must be endured and finished.

I drive up happy to be alive, thrilled with the existence of a Walmart superstore that carries every bit of sustenance my family requires.

As I walk in, I assemble my instruments. Purse in upper portion of cart. Check. Grocery list on top of purse. Check. Glasses secured. Check. Pen in hand. Check.

Glancing to my right, I see the produce section. Having already visited Sunflower Market, I happily push my cart past the asparagus and apples, side by side in a sale bin.

Coffee. The large is $6.00. The small $3.19. We are on a tight budget this week. I choose the smaller version and add the price to what I’ve already spent. I loathe math.

Even as I carry the one and put the decimal point in its proper position, I feel my body decaying from the brain down.

Tea, bread, peanut butter. I stop in front of the peanut butter section and scan the jars. Jif and Skippy are everywhere. No Peter Pan. This can’t be. A woman with gray hair and kind eyes pushes her cart by me and flashes a smile. Should I talk to her about my problem? A therapist would be handy right now. How can we live without Peter Pan? I’m only two aisles in and I’m already experiencing an existential condiment dilemma. She keeps walking. She probably smelled my perfume - a mixture of entropy and neediness.

Do we need toilet paper? I forgot to check.

Why is paprika only sold in a large container? Is it that popular?

The man giving out samples of salsa and chips looks as if he is on the verge of regurgitation. No, thank you.

By the time I’m ready to pay, I need a blood transfusion. But I must finish. My family counts on food.

Choosing a cashier is one of the most important decisions of the day. If I choose well, I’ll go home soon. Choosing badly means playing Russian roulette with prices and bagging. Sure, I’m not sitting in a Vietnam hut like Robert DeNiro in The Deer Hunter, but I could go home in an hour with broken eggs and $2.45 less than I should.

I choose badly. The cashier never makes eye contact. Instead, she keeps a running dialogue with a fellow cashier two rows over. She’s tall and I stretch to interrupt her eye line, but it doesn’t work.

I begin to sigh. It’s a passive aggressive skill I’ve worked years to perfect. No reaction.

She throws celery on top of yogurt cups in the bottom of a bag. My outrage overcomes my exhaustion.

“Watch what you’re doing!”

She looks at me for the first time.

“You just threw celery onto yogurt cups.”

She’s silent. She’s attended passive aggressive class.

I come home and my husband and son help carry in the bags. Just as I’m about to plop down, my beloved says, “You forgot stamps.”

I call 911.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Ode to Spring

I love Spring. And it seems to be here in Denver, Colorado. 60ish degrees outside, blue sky, light breeze. Perfect. But do I trust it to stay? Not yet. Spring is very fickle around where I live. It teases us with an appearance and then scurries off behind dark clouds like it wants to play hide and seek. I yell "Ollie ollie oxen free," and still it stays hidden.

But today my windows are open and the screen doors to our patio/balcony are open. Lovely. Absolutely lovely. I hope spring stays. I really do. Friends with allergies don't have the unbridled enthusiasm I possess. I feel bad for them. I really do. But it has been too cold for too long.

I wish I was in charge. I'm glad I'm not. Both emotions mingle and cause me restlessness. God controls the weather. I don't. Just one more aspect of my life I must accept. And accept. And then later...accept.

Blossoms, I await. Patiently. Well, not really. Oh Spring, please stay a while.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Have you Thanked God for Your Gift(s) Today?

Part of dancing in joy is thanking God for the gifts He gives. Gifts of love. One of the most precious gifts in my life is my son, Noah. Someday I'll catch up in my scrapbbooking (yes, I am part of that cult) so I can sit and look at photographs of the ways God has loved me through the boy. The camera is one of those inventions that I believe has strengthened family joy. We get to capture time, just an iota, and create a memory. He's growing up fast, so I carry the camera around often. :0)

He's a Boy Scout.

A soccer player.

The king of the world. :0) This was taken at Garden of the Gods.

Owner of Scooby. This is when Scooby visited Noah in the hospital a couple of weeks ago.

His father's son.

A friend who loves adventure.
He and some buddies standing
in front of a fort they built by the
creek by our home.

A typical boy? I took this picture
when I went into his bedroom to get his laundry. Yep, that's a pile of clothes by an empty basket. :0)

A great kid with a super sense of humor.

I thank God for my gift!

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Happy Resurrection Day!

May our Lord bless you this Easter with a glimpse
of His love for you and a moment of pure joy at being His child.