Tuesday, January 27, 2015

5 Lessons I've Learned from Ken Wytsma's The Grand Paradox + Giveaway


When asked to fill in as host for The Rose City Forum on KKPZ radio, I knew exactly which guests I wanted to interview on the show. I screamed like a fangirl professionally emailed a thank you response when Ken Wytsma agreed to discuss his new book, The Grand Paradox: The Messiness of Life, the Mystery of God and the Necessity of Faith with me and the Portland listeners. 
(You can listen to podcast interview here)

Ken is the founder of The Justice Conference and author of the book Pursuing Justice: The Call to Live and Die for Bigger Things, two events which have encouraged me serving in the local community. I wasn’t sure what to expect from Ken’s new work and I’m glad I had no pre-conceived notions. Reading this book challenged lifelong assumptions and has proceeded to rock my world. 

The following are 5 of the many lessons I’ve learned from reading The Grand Paradox: 

1. My relationship with God isn’t all about me.

So many times I’ve blamed God’s will when things didn’t go my way, or even ignored the call I’m sensing because I didn’t feel up to the task. Surely God will understand and call me in a different direction, I've justified.

God's plan will be complete whether or not I participate. The question is, will I act self-centered and wait until I’m comfortable or will I follow any call to be part of His will, not my own?

Ken’s Words: We pray, and seek God’s will, as though He has a specific will for each of us - for each of the 7 billion people alive today. I think it’s more accurate to understand Him as having one will that involves separate roles for each of those 7 billion people.


2. When asking God, “What should I do?” I need to listen to the answer, even if it’s not the response I want to hear. 

Ken shares an example of a couple who relocated as the housing market crashed. He could have been talking about Edd and me. Moving south a state was a tremendously difficult decision for us and not financially wise at all. Even though our lives have flourished greatly since the move to Portland in non-financial ways, there is always the thought in the back of our heads...did we do the right thing? 

After reading the chapter “Wisdoms Folly”, I am confident we followed our hearts with God. But, I also know if we would have stayed put, God’s will would have still been done. We put way too much pressure on ourselves playing the “what if” game. Really, we should just keep walking forward in wisdom and trust.*

Ken’s Words: There is a tension to such discernment and decision making. That which calls us to act rationally can be the voice of God, which we need to obey, or it can be the voice of folly, tempting us to remain safe while ignoring God’s trustworthy call to step out in faith.




3. “Instead of asking what God’s will is for my life, I should be asking how I can serve God’s will with my life.” ~KW

Again and again my prayers are filled with the questions: “Why am I here?” “What is my purpose?” “Why me?”

After reading "Personal Calling and Mission", I think the answer from God is this: You are here because I love you. Now get off the computer and go love people in My name.

Ken’s Words: Sometimes the more relevant prayer is not, “God, what is Your specific will for my life? but, “God, help me understand what decisions to make today, what endeavors to undertake, what people to pursue, and which goals to set.”

4. “Life is pain, highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.” ~ Westley, The Princess Bride

No one wants suffering in their lives. We, as Christians, are not immune to pain. Read the Bible. All of it. Even those who were Jesus followers - especially those who were Jesus followers - suffered mentally and physically, yet they did not stop sharing the Gospel. This says a great deal to me regarding the power of Jesus.

I admit, I try to numb myself to suffering - not just with Advil, but with TV, self-help books, and when I’m really low - Oprah. I need a better plan. True faith isn’t feeling good all of the time. If we don’t manage our hardships, we don’t grow.

Ken’s Words: If we become enchanted by the promise of prosperity and endless health, we are setting ourselves up for shocking, unmerciful disappointment. If we anticipate adversity, we will do ourselves a lot of good and grow our ability to persevere in our walk of faith.

5. I need a priority shift.

I’m a people pleaser. I like to do all of the things for all of the people all of the time. Everything becomes a high priority. Honestly, this hasn’t been working all that well for me. 

Instead of placing my priority on others' feelings about me, I need to focus on the One who matters. If I filtered all of my thoughts and activities through the God-priority lens, days may end up more meaningful and I bet I'd be a lot less stressed. We all have our own relationship with God, so this may look differently for each of us. (I needed to write that last sentence down as a reminder.)

Ken’s Words: Life is too precious to waste any season of it. 




I’ve so many more lessons to share, but you have your own lessons to learn. The Grand Paradox: The Messiness of Life, the Mystery of God and the Necessity of Faith, by Ken Wytsma, releases today. You can buy your own copy because you’ll want to re-read this in years to come.

OR

You can win the book just by commenting on this post! Which of the 5 lessons above speak to you the most? 

On Friday 1/30/15 at 9:00 pm PST, I'll randomly choose a commenter and mail him/her a copy. Trust me, this is a reference you'll want in your home library!

*My life-motto for the year.

Related Posts:
The Justice Conference
Pursuing Justice

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Saturday, January 24, 2015

The Good News This Week…January 24

Sharing the good news because there is too much bad.

Sharing a Moment:

Emma turned 15 this week. We spent the first part of the day shopping at the mall. She surpassed me in height a while ago. I wonder how much further she'll go.



Sharing Stories:

6 Ideas From Creative Thinkers to Shake Up Your Work Routine - TED blog
I'm into the TED talks. Here is a playlist for you to explore your creativity. 

An Example of ADHD
We have this in our family. If you don't understand ADHD, this is it. The End.

The Last Living People Born in the 1800s
5 of the most beautiful women I've ever seen.

These Boys Were Asked To Slap a Girl
My husband showed this to me. We were both so touched. Beautiful.

Don't Wait. Just Do It. 
I needed motivation.

Sharing A Ted Talk:

I have been feeling sorry for myself a little lately. Nothing like a pity party for one. But Phil Hanson is changing my perception. It just so happens I have a shake going on, too. Now, if only I could produce art like this guy…




Praying for peace to be with all of you in the upcoming week!

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Thursday, January 22, 2015

A Response To Those Complaining About "The Church"



There have been approximately 1,284,956 posts about Americans disgruntled with "the church". And I think there have been as many more responses. I feel I need to add one more reply because:
  1. I have a blog and I can.
  2. That’s it. Just (a).

The internet is FILLED with complaints about “the church”. Mind you, I’m not exactly sure who “the church” is right now. Is it Evangelicals? Fundamentalists? Lutherans? Catholics? Methodists? Mennonites? Para-churches who are feeding the poor? TV evangelists who are exploiting for money?

For this post’s sake, lets say “the church” is everyone who believes in Jesus as Christ Messiah.

Most of the grumblings I’m reading are the result of being hurt or offended by organized religion. I totally get this. Some who name themselves Jesus followers are idiots. I’ve been cheated on by “strong Christians”, led astray by senior pastors, and offended by preachers as I’ve listened to their sermons. I’ve blamed the politics of a denomination, the egos of leaders, and the lame reason of “this is how it’s always been”.

But to put the blame on “the church” as a whole is misleading because then I am blaming you as a fellow believer and part of the body, which is all wrong. I do tend to stay away from toxic individuals or groups which make up part of “the church”, because they are actual people and some actual people actually suck.

I did not stay with these communities with which I took issue. As a family, we searched to find a place where we fit. And let me tell you - it was dang tough. I finally told God - I don’t see what I’m looking for. We’ll start a home group of our own.

Right about the time I told God my plans, He laughed and introduced me to a small group starting a church plant of their own. This time, we found others with whom we share like values and ideas.

The community we worship with now - 
welcome everyone, no matter the baggage
welcome everyone, no matter the belief
serve the poor
help the hurting
preach from the heart
learn together
break bread together - and soup, and salad, and gluten-free desserts.



If something ever were to happen and the people with whom we do church change - I’m talking significant value changes where we’d all have to be vegan or wear only yellow* - we would probably say our goodbyes and find another community.

But I will not quit “the church”. To do so is to throw away the sacrifice of the early apostles, the freedoms we have in this country, and the commands of Jesus**. Not to mention the message leaving “the church” says to those dying across the world for owning a Bible. It’s like telling countries with no access to clean water that we let our faucets drip and throw clean H2O down the sewer every day. It just proves our society’s spoiled selfishness.

If you feel the need to leave “the church”, I challenge you instead to be the change. Yes, thousands have written identical thoughts and this is just one more time you’ll read it. My intolerance comes into play when people complain and criticize without action. 

The 5th book in the New Testament describes the beginning of the early church. Because of the actual labor which went into gathering believers it’s named, The Acts of the Apostles, not The Whiny Tirades of the Apostles.

Change will only happen with work; elbow grease, get in the trenches, become uncomfortable, love your neighbor (including those who are buffoons), dirty work.

If you’re someone whose butt warms a seat in worship and you bemoan the problems of “the church” without being part of the community - Shut. Your. Mouth. 



However, if you consider yourself part of “the church”, Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12: “You are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.”

Now go act like it.


*Not that there is anything wrong with veganism or wearing all yellow. It’s just not my style.

**Matthew 28:19

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Fifteen

If we lived in Mexico, we’d be hosting a QuinceaƱera. If we were high society, a debutante’s ball. Similarly, we Oregonians commemorate the 15th year of life by sending our offspring for their driving learner’s permits. 

Ah, the elegance of it all.



I don’t usually become verklempt with childhood milestones. I figure each year passing propels me toward a life of cruises and European tours. (I come into great wealth In my retirement fantasies.) But yesterday, in the middle of our suburban shopping mall, my eyes turned teary. This is the last year of true dependence for Emma. Next year, she’ll have her license (God willing) and she’ll be able to get where she needs to go without me. 

For our child’s 15th birthday, we celebrated as the family. 
  • we ate well
  • we shopped well
  • we conversed well
  • we re-decorated her room well to reflect the mid-teen she is now. (Although, we won’t get away from Disney decor any time soon. This is more subtle. Maybe. A little?)

As someone who forgets to remember the little things, I think this year will be different for me...this last year when she’s all ours.




Forgive me if my eyes give way to tears for no presumed reason. Although I shall attempt to keep such sentiment far, far away from my teen and her friends. The eye rolling I can endure has its limits.




Saturday, January 17, 2015

The Good News This Week…January 17

Sharing the good, because lately the bad is too much to bear.

Sharing a Moment:
My friend, Natalie, came over yesterday so I could meet her darling newborn. However, it was her toddler and our dog who captured my attention in this moment. Thorr spent the day thinking another puppy was in the house and acted accordingly. 



Sharing Stories:

Practicing Self-Care
It's been a tough couple of weeks for me, physically. This article reminds me to slow things down.

Homeless Cat Saves Baby
Talk about a story to tug at your heart strings! Also, I do believe animals go to heaven, so there.

Martin Luther King Tribute
The Academy may have snubbed the film about him, but in real life, he may have been the most important man in our country. Take time to remember him.

Man Awakens After 12 Years in a Vegetative State
If you read nothing else, please read this. Just because something is terribly wrong on the outside does not mean the inside is impaired as well. 

I once volunteered in a brain trauma unit. A man, my age (36 at the time), could only communicate by clicking a pen. Once for "yes". Twice for "no". I sat with him each week and read to him Donald Miller's, Blue Like Jazz. Every time I asked if he wanted me to continue, he clicked once. Please - if someone is in a vegetative state - don't discount them. And for God's sake, don't play Barney!

Portland Christians Protect Gay Christian Network Conference from Westboro Baptist Protesters. 
See? I told you my town rocks. 


Sharing a TED talk:




I've spent a lot of time wondering why, after all of this time volunteering, I still don't feel like I've done anything significant. In 13 minutes, Stefan Kertesz explains heroes aren't needed…we are.

Praying for peace to be with all of you in the upcoming week!

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