charitable silliness

*this was first posted Christmas day 8 years ago.  Reposting today becasue we still participate in both minitries mentioned here and it’s worth talking about.*

 

first off Christmas Eve was great.  My church does four services.

  • a 4:00 kids service (usually a drama or something that kids will love)
  • a 5:30 traditional with candle-lighting, choirs, advent wreath, etc
  • a 7:00 contemporary
  • and an 11:00 traditional.

Martin had to be available to work the 5:30 and the 11:00.  Now I knew we weren’t going to keep Ginny up till the 11:00 service, even though that one is my favorite, so we planned to go to the 5:30 with the whole family (including my parents, my niece and hopefully my brother).  It turned out to be just myself, Martin and Ginny, but we ran into some friends and ended up sitting with them.  The service was lovely, Ginny enjoyed the candle lighting very much – even though I wouldn’t let her touch the flame.

The “O Holy Night” solo was done by our assistant choir director Blair Brawner and it was gorgeous.  It wasn’t as technically perfect as some I have heard, but it was beautiful.  Even the one time her voice broke…it just made it more of a human sharing moment rather than a performance.

The real highlight for me came after the service was over.  You see I had to go up to our pastor and apologize….  For wearing a Santa hat all during the service.

??? Why was I wearing a Santa hat to a church service when I don’t believe in Santa?

Well I was wearing it initially because I was just being silly.  Martin wears his a lot, and Ginny looked so cute in hers, so I was wearing mine to fit in with my sweet, silly family.

But then, on the way into the sanctuary, I passed by one of the outer doors, the one right next to the “hats, mittens & scarves tree”  This is a 9 foot tall Christmas tree that the members of our church decorate with brand new hats, mittens and scarves all through-out the holiday season.

As I was passing that entrance a blast of cold air hit me.  Really cold air.

I turned around.

there coming in the door was a woman and three kids.

all in shirt sleeves.

I smiled and said “Hi! Welcome!”

She smiled back, glanced at my hat and then at the tree.

“Do you know how we could get a hat or a coat for my kids?”

At which point I realized that I didn’t have a clue how those hats, mittens & scarves were going to be distributed. They disappear every year after Christmas, but I had no idea where they went.  To the Co-op? To a shelter? I had no clue.

“Tell you what, I’ll find out how we can get you some of those hats and stuff.  I know just who to ask, okay?” I said.

“How will I find you?” she asked, as people jostled us apart.

without missing a beat I said “I’m probably the only person in that sanctuary wearing a Santa hat.  I won’t take it off till you find me again and I promise I’ll have an answer for you”

So I asked around, and finally the pastor told me “you just march her right up to that tree and let her have whatever she needs.”

Well thanks to the Santa hat, we re-connected after the service and as I was walking her and the kids to the tree I figured I should make conversation…so I asked

“Have you ever been here before?”

“Well no, not to a service.” she said “But we come to your Journey to Bethlehem thing every  year, so I knew you were nice people”

wow.

That was worth every weird look I got for wearing the Santa hat during the service, and every time I have had to explain to my boss why I need those days in December off every year to put up Bethlehem sets and then take them down again. Not to mention all the rehearsals.

So thank you to the people at SUMC who gave hats, mittens and scarves.  And to all the folks who work hard to make Journey a reality each year – it is worth it.  We are reaching people.  People who sometimes need hats, scarves and mittens.

and I dare say, that is a fitting way to celebrate the birth of the Savior.

Merry Christmas.

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1 book that changed everything

One of my favorite things in life is reading.

Reading, curled up in a comfy chair. A blanket round my feet. A cat trying desperately to get between me and the book.  And a mug of tea somewhere in arms reach. Rainy or cold days are a bonus.

But honestly, my favorite way to read involves other people.

I was first introduced to group readings by my Uncle Bill.

Uncle Bill was a mathematical genius. He was the type of guy who was always being invited to Denmark for major mathematical theorists meetings (all expenses paid, major guest speaker etc…) and stuff like that.  He could walk onto any college campus in the country and instantly get hired by the mathematics department. He would always tell them: I’m just here for a few years then I’ll be going away.   You see he hated normal life.   He wanted to spend his life hiking and thinking.   So he would work for a few years, save up enough money and then quit and go hit the trails again.

Anyway, the point is that we never knew where Uncle Bill was at any given point.  We couldn’t contact him. He would contact us. Sometimes it was a phone call,  but more often than not he would just show up, knocking on the door.  Once it was in the middle of the night.  He always brought ice cream. He loved ice cream and he knew we did too.

and….. he loved to read.

One summer, when I was between second and third grade, he stayed with us the whole summer. Some time during that first week he pulled out a book and sat the whole family down after dinner and started to read to us.

“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.  Not a dirty nasty wet hole filled with the ends of worms and  an oooozy smell, nor yet a dry bare sandy hole with nothing to sit down on, or to eat.  This was a hobbit hole.  And that means comfort. …”

After a chapter or three he closed the book and said it was time to stop cause he was getting hoarse. My brother and I begged him to keep going, but he couldn’t. So my mom took the book and started to read. After she couldn’t go on, my dad picked it up.  When daddy got tired the adults closed the book and said “okay, that’s it for the night”

“No!” both us kids cried. “WE can read !!!!” so the book was passed to us and we struggled through and each of us proudly read a few sentences. Now all this had given Uncle Bill enough of a respite that he could go on, so he read one more chapter and then we all went to bed.  I think he strategically stopped in the  middle of the encounter with the three trolls.  Good call on his part.

The next night, after dinner my brother and I eagerly made a beeline for the couches and pulled out the book. “Read! come on everybody. let’s READ”  After an appropriate show of reluctance, all three adults were seated and we dove back into the fantastic world of Bilbo Baggins, dragons, elves, trolls etc….

The T.V. never once got turned on that whole summer. After we finished the Hobbit, we moved on to the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy,  then to Mark Twain. It was an amazing summer.

It’s been a long time since that first family reading time, and it is still my favorite way to experience any book.  My husband and I regularly read to each other and we are eagerly awaiting the time when our eight year old is ready to participate.  Ginny tells me that she doesn’t like reading aloud, but it’s a skill I think everyone should have, and this is a great, non-critical environment for her to learn.

But you can’t push this kind of thing.  She has to be ready, so I wait until once more in my life, the Hobbit, the book that changed everything,  sits on a side table in my living room, waiting for dinner to be over and for the family to gather round.

I love tradition.

What book opened your eyes to the joys of reading?  I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Breathe in, breathe out, look up

Breathe in, breathe out, look up

Okay.  I’ve had my cathartic day of grieving.

I don’t like the results of this election, but I respect the office, our constitution, the current man holding the office, and the gracious in defeat opponent enough that I will obey their request to try to keep an open mind and give him a chance.

I’m also obeying God here. (See Romans 13 also)

Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone.
At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.
Titus 3: 1-8

So, I’m going to start doing something good by starting to have fun again. Learning to look up and smile and spread joy.  The best way I know to spread joy is to go back to posting about my fabulous daughter Ginny.

Ginny is now 8 years old (which means my blog is approximately 9 years old since I started it before she was even born.  wow. ) Anyway, she is fun and sassy and learning to love God and her fellow humans at a wonderful Christian school that is dear to my heart.

Here are a few photos from recent years.  This is by no means comprehensive.  It’s just ones I had handy on my computer as I’m writing this today.

So that’s my version of kitten videos and lighthearted fun for today.

Enjoy.

I still mean it #LetGraceReign

This morning I woke up to the horrific news that my candidate had lost the election.

I went to bed convinced we were going to have our first woman President elect, but by the time I woke up, the USA had made a huge mistake.

But I stand by what I said yesterday  https://screamofcontinuousness.wordpress.com/2016/11/08/letgracereign

#LetGraceReign was not just a mantra for being nice to people if my team won.

#LetGraceReign applies even now.

Even though my heart is filled with fear. I know that God is still the one who sets up rulers and tears them down.

My 8 year old daughter is crushed and horrified.  I spent the first 15 minutes of my day praying with her.

Praying for our neighbors, our friends who are Black, Muslim, Gay, Transgender, Latino.

We even prayed for Trump.  That God would confront him and radically change his heart and mind.

I’m frustrated.

I’m angry.

But even now, I will not authorize hate. Not towards people who voted for him, not towards people who voted for 3rd parties, not even towards the protest people who stayed home.

I believe that Trump is inimical to all decent humans.  Therefore all decent humans (whether Christian or not) just became missionaries in hostile territory.

I have an advantage over people who don’t believe God and the Bible.  I know that Trump cannot touch my soul.  I know that my redeemer lives. And I know whom I have believed and He is able to keep that which I’ve committed unto him against that day.

I’ve given my soul into God’s keeping long ago.  That is what matters most and Trump can’t touch it.

That said, I know my mission for the next four years (what should have been my mission all along) is to stand up for those who need my help.

And to spend more time on  my knees praying for us all as we learn more about forgiveness and mercy than we ever knew before.

#LetGraceReign

 

 

#LetGraceReign

It is time, and more than time to begin the work of healing the wounds that we all have given and sustained these past few months.

The die is cast.

People are casting their votes.  Their minds have been made up for quite a while, now we just have to wait to see what the outcome is.

But you know what is remarkable?

Whoever wins this presidential race has no effect whatsoever on who I am.

I am a precious child of God……and I still will be on Wednesday morning.

I am a sinner who is covered in the blood of the Lamb……and that will still be true Wednesday morning.

I have friends and family on both sides of this contest who are angry…..and that is still, sadly, going to be true on Wednesday morning.

God expects me to obey the laws of the land….and that will still be true Wednesday morning.

“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.
Consequently, the one who resists authority is opposing what God has set in place, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.”
Romans 13: 1 & 2

 

God is in charge of this and all other elections…..that has always been true and it will still be true Wednesday morning.

“God changes times and seasons; He deposes kings and raises up others.”
Daniel 2:21

“But God is the Judge; He puts down one and exalts another”
Psalm 75:7

“By me kings reign, and rulers decree justice”
Proverbs 8:15

So, whether we have a Trump or a Clinton president elect by Wednesday, know this beyond all doubt –
GOD PUT THEM IN THE HIGHEST OFFICE IN THIS LAND FOR A DIVINE REASON. 

So guess what?

All the hurts, and the scorn, all the anger….let it go.  It has no meaning anymore.

Lets move on to the very real business of extending GRACE to each other.

Forgive those who have hurt you.  Love those who have wounded you.  If you can’t figure out where to start or what to do, or you think you lack the strength to accomplish this, I have good news for you.  God himself has promised to help you.

“If any of you lack wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him”
James 1:5

“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone.  Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”
Colossians 3:13

“Though he scoffs at the scoffers, yet He gives grace to the afflicted”
Proverbs 3:34

“But He gives us more grace. That is why scripture says that God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble”
James 4:6

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as God, through Christ Jesus, forgave you.”
Ephesians 4:32

Remember, I’m saying all this this BEFORE we know who will be sleeping in the White House in 2017…..and it will ALL STILL BE TRUE WEDNESDAY MORNING.

#LetGraceReign

 

 

 

 

 

don’t hurt yourself

I’ve been posting a fair amount in the last three months on my social media sites about something a lot of white people don’t like to talk about.

I’ve been warned.

“don’t post anything political”

and

“don’t post anything that can be seen as negative”

“don’t use that hashtag about Black Lives cause it is only going to hurt you, and your business”

um….

no.

No, I’m not going to keep my head down and keep posting only sweet photos of Ginny, and positive stories about work, skating and life in general and fail utterly to acknowledge the horrendous treatment of black people in this country.

Shootings make the news every other day now,  and that’s horrific, but I’m not even really talking about that.  To me the saddest thing is all unvoiced, insidious assumptions that are made about black people.  It’s all the times I’ve kept silent and allowed others around me to speak to black co-workers in ways they would never talk to me.  It’s all the times I myself have failed to recognize my own assumptions about others that were based on appearance.

I’m not a social activist.  I’m not a social scientist.  I’m not qualified to evaluate the mess in this country and propose sweeping solutions.

What I am qualified to do is to tell the truths that I know.  When I see an article from a friend or stranger that moves me.  I’m gonna share it.  Whether it is about an uplifting time someone had a recent youth retreat, or a horrific encounter in a department store as blatant racism reared its ugly head.

If those posts cost me business (my jewelry business involves social selling,  on-line and home parties etc) that’s fine with me.  If sharing how I feel about how black people are mistreated and systemically pushed down in the USA costs me friends, I’m okay with that too.  If that is the only pain I encounter from being truthful, I’ll consider myself blessed.

I don’t want to contribute to the idea that “everything is okay” because everything is not okay.  I don’t need statistical analysis to show me that people all over this country are being judged by how they look.  I’ve been in a grocery store line with one of my dearest friends. He happens to be a very tall very black man.  I’ve seen the cashiers avoid his eyes and look at mine to make sure I’m okay.

People don’t do that to me when I’m with my (white) husband…even when he looks like a scruffy wild-man.  No one has ever tried to catch my eye to check that I’m alright.   That cashier had no reason at all to judge my dear friend.  He was dressed better than I was that day.   Actually he is always dressed better than me.  The man is a snappy dresser.  The only thing she could possibly have had against him was his skin color.

Let’s get something clear –

making any decision about any human being based on what they look like

is flat out wrong.

That’s not a political statement.  And it shouldn’t be a shocking concept.  It shouldn’t be even remotely controversial.

Yet somehow, sadly,  it is.

Because none of us like to confront our own flaws.  None of us enjoy the work it takes to eradicate bad habits and sloppy thinking.  But we have to.  Especially if you claim to be a follower of Christ.

Jesus followers should glory in all the incredible range of color and style of the entire human race.

Jesus followers should recognize that we are all precious. We are all valuable.  For one very simple reason:

Jesus Christ, the only Son of God spilled out his blood and died for ….who exactly?

only people who deserve it?  NO

only people who have never made a mistake? NO

only people who interpret the Bible the exact same way I do? NO

only people who happen to look just like yourself?  NO

only the people who vote the same way I do?  NO

Christ suffered and died for ALL types of humans, with all different opinions.  Get used to it.  Or stop calling yourself a follower of Christ.

 

 

 

my earning potential is ZERO

So, I got a text from a friend this past weekend.  It said…..

“please call me A.S.A.P.”

my first thought was…

“oh sh*t, who died?”

(just being real here.  I try not to cuss in front of my child, but let’s be honest, inside my head…yup, I did use those words and it would be dishonest to tell you otherwise.)

So I clicked on her number.  This friend, let’s call her SB, is someone I don’t talk to often.  Like once every 5 or 10 YEARS.  But we have mutual friends that she would get news about faster than me if something bad had happened.  So I sat there, at 9:30 on a Saturday morning, listening to the dial tone and the ringing with my heart pounding.

She answered, and was so cheerful I knew at once that nothing like *that* had happened.  Now I’m curious, what on earth was so important that she needed to reach out to me on a Saturday morning with that urgent message?  I wasn’t upset, just puzzled.

Turns out she was worried about something she had seen on my Facebook feed.  Something that was innocent on my end, but might lead people to believe that I endorse or approve of a particular person who has strong connections to Satanists, Nihilists and other agents of chaos.

Let’s stop and think about that for a minute.

Think of the courage and compassion it took to see someone in error and literally call them on it.

SB didn’t judge me.  She skipped over that and went straight to the heart of the matter – concern for her fellow Christians.  She wasn’t concerned about me.  She knows me well enough to know that I’m not personally heading down a negative path, but she was concerned for my witness and for people who might be confused by seeing links to such things on the Facebook feed of a professing Christian.

“But be careful with your freedom. 
Your freedom may cause those who are weak in faith to fall into sin. 
I Corinthians 8:9″

Funny how Paul is so relevant, even today.  He was talking about the right to eat anything, but that could just as easily apply to my right to read (or mentally consume) anything.  It doesn’t give me the right to put potentially dangerous meat out there for others to consume.

I explained to SB the reason that person was even on my friends list.  A person from my childhood that I care deeply for, pray for and treasure.  We discussed ways to keep my friendship with this person intact and still guard against spreading or appearing to endorse beliefs and practices so counter to my own.

Message spoken. Message received.

It was a wide ranging conversation.  We discussed raising of our kids, our fitness agendas (or lack of them in my case) and our past friends and connections.  We even discussed the fact that she was nervous about calling me.  Which I find hysterical. She said she felt like she was calling someone famous !!!!!  On the flip side, I still get a HUGE kick out of the fact that this person who I hero worshiped when I was an underclassmen and she was a ultra-cool upper-classman is actually a fan of my writing !  So it was kind of a mutual admiration society there for a minute, which was fun.

Deirdre, get to the point.

okay. okay.

As the conversation was starting to wrap up we wandered back to the original topic of friends and acquaintances who we need to keep as friends and show them love, while still not approving of their choices.  I then made the comment that I wished my brother Stephen had made better choices and that I wished I could believe that he was in heaven.  He was such a devout Christian as a kid.  He would witness to literally anyone.  He really loved Jesus.  His faith was so strong.  God was always his first thought.  Prayer was his first answer to anything.  But then he hit the teenage years and started questioning everything.  He headed down some dark paths and he never looked back.

So when he died a couple of years ago, I started struggling with a question that troubles many people…….

“can you lose your salvation?”

I wanted so much for Stephen to be safely in heaven, that I convinced myself that I wanted it too much.  It was comfortable to think that he was in heaven, so therefore it couldn’t possibly be true.  So often in our Christian walk, Truth is difficult.  So if I believed something simple and comfortable, it had to be wrong.  Get it?  See the trap I was falling into?

Then SB said something that rocked my world.

“IF you could lose your salvation,
that would imply you could have earned it to begin with.
So,  NO.
You cannot lose your salvation”

That pulled me up short.

Most of us are pretty clear on the straightforward reading of Ephesians 2: 8 – 10

“For it is by grace you have been saved through faith, and
this not from yourselves; it is the gift of God,
not by works so that no one can boast.
For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works,
which God prepared in advance as our way of life.…
Ephesians 2: 8-10”

We can’t earn salvation.  Got it.  No intellectual problems with that.

Sometimes I still try to earn it though.  I beat myself up for my sins.  Current ones (see cussing, above) and past mistakes (divorce, lies, greed, gluttony the list goes on and on and it’s not something I should share anyway).  Anyway, I fall prey All. The. Time. to the LIE that I have to be good enough to earn God’s favor.

But Guess what?

I CAN’T DO IT

I have absolutely ZERO earning potential when it comes to saving my soul.

But turning this verse on it’s head, essentially doing the math and realizing that if I can’t EARN salvation, then I can’t UN-EARN it either is something I had never really processed.

Time for School. Let’s go back to Algebra for a second here.  Math.  Yes I’m quoting math.  Never thought THAT would happen…

Properties of Zero

0 added or subtracted to anything equals itself

0 multiplied by anything equals 0

0 divided by anything equals 0

We cannot divide by 0

 

So take “a” as GRACE or Salvation.

God has declared that I can literally not add one single thing to my salvation.  That means I am the ZERO in this equation.

ZERO literally does NOTHING to the equation. Zero can’t add anything to the value.  Zero can’t remove anything from the value. Zero can’t multiply or divide the initial value.

GRACE is completely UNCHANGED by anything the ZERO (me) can attempt to do to it.

just dwell on that for a minute.

 

not to be trite, but

MIND BLOWN.

So now I know.

My brother Stephen is in heaven.  I know this to be true, because I know my salvation is true.  I can’t earn it.  And Stephen couldn’t UN-EARN it. No matter how hard he tried.

wow.

you have no idea what a blessing that surety is for me.

So thank you SB.  Thank you for reading my stuff.  Thank you for pestering me into writing again.  Thank you for seeing God in at least some of what I write.  and Thank you for listening to the Holy Spirit and reaching out to me to deliver TWO messages from God this past weekend. I am humbled and honored to be cared for by someone like you.

and I’m ever so glad to have ZERO earning potential.