Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Being Intentional

I loved the idea of a single word to guide my year rather than looking to resolutions that I either couldn't keep or really did not want to but felt an obligation to at least try.  I had a hard time choosing a word that did not sound like a flippant Christian cliche' and yet I ended up going with one of the trendiest of buzz words. Intentional.

What I have learned over the last several weeks, however, is that being intentional is not as much about what I am doing, but rather about what I am not doing anymore and where I am drawing boundaries.  To be intentional also involves putting away the old, tired things in our lives that now weigh us down and moving into the freedom that comes with saying "No, thank you."

Maybe it is my Midwestern upbringing.  Maybe it is the pragmatism of my Swedish heritage.  Maybe it is the insecurity that has plagued me throughout most of my life and that I inherited from generations before me.  I took every opportunity that came my way.  If someone asked me to do something, be something, say something...especially if they were in authority, had been around longer, or I admired...I did it.  I took it on.  Hard work yields success.  Being the go-to person means you are needed and wanted. fact, it often means just the opposite.

I still believe in hard work.  I still believe in going the extra mile.  I still believe that striving to do and be the best you can be is a noble cause.  But in this season, I am stepping away from the addition that is the need to prove my value by what I do.

I wouldn't be where I am today without these attributes.  They have sustained me when I was tired and weak and just wanted to give up.  They have helped me advance and achieve--to be recognized.  But they have also caused me equal amounts of door mat living and expectations that I cannot meet.  So I have started to say no.

I have said no to things that I had once thought I must achieve.  I have stopped apologizing for the things I do well and I have started to ask for help where I am weak.  I will not allow other's insecurity and their unmet needs drive mine.  And boy does it feel good!

I am seeing more clearly in the last six weeks that I have been given gifts and gifts are to be cherished and not used up before their time. When I was a child, my mother would spend hours of time and energy focused on getting my brothers and me to appreciate the things we had been given and to take care of the things we had.  Lessons on picking up my clothes and handling my special things with care are not about those things at all.  They are really about my life.

I won't lie and say that these last few weeks have been free of pain or that I have not  been scared out of my mind about the conversations I have had in order to take care of my things, those special gifts, me.  I have cried a thousand tears publicly and privately, but I am no longer scared of that either.  It is not weakness, it is physical release of those things which don't belong in my life.

There is no amount of money, titles, or accolade that could take me back to where I was just a little over a month ago.  Over the next few days I want to lay out specifically some of the areas that I have learned to remove the yoke of yes and find the freedom of no.  I want to also address some of the challenges this intentionality feeds...particularly my need for control.

There are new (to me right now) disciplines and other goals I look forward to setting.  There are other opportunities I have longed for and missed out on because I was drowning.  I can't wait to see what God is going to do with me in the next six weeks.  Reporting on them and fleshing out the journey is just one of those new things I look forward to being a part of my year of intentional living.  One day, one moment at a time.

Monday, December 31, 2012

My Word 2013! A Year of Living Intentionally

The last few years have been hard.  I know that seems like a very uncelebratory way to usher in a new year.  It feels good to say it out loud.  Specifically, the last three years have been really hard. In August of 2006 we moved to Missouri for what we thought would be a two-year stint, but here I sit in my home in Springfield more than 6 years later.  We had no idea the journey we had embarked on or what we would encounter along the way.

The first half of our Missouri story was actually pretty good.  We bought a house, the Counselor finished his Master's degree and became a--well--Counselor, we bought one dog and rescued another.  We both had decent jobs.  It was shortly after we arrived in Springfield that Kevin's sister, Karen, was diagnosed with cancer...for the second time.  This time was bad.  Our Virginia family's life seemed to be put on hold, but ours seemed to march along.  We were apart.  We were growing.  It felt like we were here so that we could be there for them in whatever way we could offer.  We were not in the midst of it so I am sure it seemed it didn't impact our lives. I am not sure we felt like it impacted us as much as it did.  Then Kevin's grandfather too fell ill.

We rushed back to Virginia.  It was almost as though he waited for Kevin to arrive before the man I believed looked like God went to meet his Savior. He spoke over my husband in a way I had only read about and I watched Kevin take it all in as a student learning at the feet of a teacher.  When we came back to Missouri, we were different, changed. We decided that I would leave the comfort of a stable job and do contract work to finish my doctoral degree with the completion of my dissertation.  Kevin would work for a social service agency to be the stable income.  

Things fell into place. Provision was always made even if it arrived at an odd time.  The savings we had built up would carry us through.  As the process neared an end we made the monumental choice to stop using contraception and take our chances on becoming parents.  It didn't take long.

This is where is gets hard. Neither of us were longing to be parents.  It would be a step of faith. A leap.  The economy had tanked, our savings was running out fast, but we had faith like we had never had before.  Then the degree and the dissertation were delayed, but a beautiful baby girl eased the sting.  We brought our girl to Virginia to meet her Auntie KK and then to North Dakota to meet the whole Anderson clan.  Then it all fell apart.  Karen left.  Another baby was conceived.  Mourning turned to terrible sadness. It is like the world stopped turning. 

When I tell people that our family doubled in size in 22 months with babies 13 months apart...and I completed a doctorate...all people tell me is that they are sorry.   I have gotten used to it, but it still stings in a place far from human reach.   To say that our lives were set on auto-pilot is an understatement.  Many told us just how hard it was going to be; few offered anything in the way of help to ease the burden. A fog set in.

I was asked by a colleague a few months ago just how I got through it.  What did I do to make it better? Being the good church girl that I am, I had my prepared platitudes of God's grace, my son's presence, and more stable work contract to pull me out of the mire.  All true, but incomplete.  We have gone through the motions.  The few times I have confronted the loss, the challenges, the sheet exhaustion I am so broken that I quickly put it away for fear I will sing more deeply.  We exist.  We just do the next thing because sometimes it is all we can do. 

All of this has taken a toll.  It is visible in many areas of our lives.  I see it most in our finances, the care of our home, in my approach to work and the Counselor's ability to take the next steps.  But I see it most in my relationship with the Lord.  I have rested on the foundation of my faith given me by my family and in the Word planted in my heart, but I cultivated nothing.  I begged God to be there in the trials, but let the disciplines of a spiritual life slip away. Yet, 2012 has been different.  One, we did not have a baby this year.  Can I get an amen?  Opportunity is again presenting itself.  Change is afoot.  The fog is starting to lift as sleep becomes a reality again and some of the pressures are lifted.  I have never shied away from hard.  I enjoy a challenge.  Tell me I cannot and I will.  Just existing was starting to get old.  And I am not interested in giving up or giving in.  It does not honor my children and it would disappoint our Karen if we died along with her refusing to live life fully. I am lonesome for the presence of the Lord.  I miss the closeness and the fire of the Spirit.

So this year will be different.  Inspired by my friend Sarah Bessey I am going to choose a word for 2013.  Look, the Holy Spirit did a major work in her this year, so I am not entering into this lightly.  I come at it with fear and trembling.  The fog may look more like a blanket of comfort when we meet again a year from now, but I am doing it.  I miss LIVING.  I miss passion and purpose.  I miss goals and dreams.  I miss ME.  And I miss my Savior.

My word for 2013 is Intentional.  I want to live fully right where I am as Ann Voskamp encouraged.  I want to approach my work, my family, and my relationship with God in pure passion.  I don't want to just get through, I want to take this year by storm.  I have been praying about this word since the last semester ended.  I got through it, but I missed a lot.  I don't want to live like that.  I will need help.  I am no longer an island who only has to concern herself with my own actions and choices.  I have to do this in relationship to my husband and children.  We are a unit. 

I will need all of the help I can get, but I am ready.  Life is born of struggle that is internal.  I know this year of intentional living will not be a cake walk.  I know that hard has not left my lips, but that out of this year will come a better me.  I can't wait to see where this year of intentional living takes me and my family.  Here we go...but first...sleep!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Being Wonderstruck

It has been far too long since the last time I spent time at the burning least to blog about my experiences there.  The season I am in right now seems to suck every last minute away from me, but the work that is being done in my life right now is nothing short of amazing.  It is painful and hard sometimes, but all along the way little gifts come my way via books, Facebook, Twitter, and even in face to face conversation.  One of those is gifts has not yet been released to the public, but is already making an impact in my life.

My friend, Margaret Feinberg [], has a new book and 7-session DVD Bible study called Wonderstruck: Awaken to the Nearness of God [],which releases Christmas Day. This is a personal invitation for you to toss back the covers, climb out of bed, and drink in the fullness of life. This book will turn your prayer life upside down, stir your desire to live more abundantly, and take your relationships with others to the next level. To learn more, watch the Wonderstruck Video: click here to view.

Margaret recently posted a great warning on her site that those who have read Wonderstruck []have experienced the following symptoms:

-An inability to stop smiling

-An uncontainable desire to pray

-A loss of interest in judging others

-A quiet, unshakable confidence in God

-A renewed ability to see the wonders of God all around

And from what I’ve seen, they’re all true! I wanted to share some thoughts that stuck out to me as I read a sneak peek of Wonderstruck:

I am in the thick of these moments right now.  Teaching too many hours, worried about keeping up my house, spending enough time with my kids and praising them rather than only offering correction...each of these things have been given to me as a gift and God is in the comments I return to my students, he is there when I wash the dishes (and he doesn't judgement when I don't), and he offers me grace to follow up the correction of little ones with lots of hugs and kisses.  When I intentionally see God in the wonders of each of these moments, then they are no longer the stressors of my life, they are moments to stand in wonder of a great God who saw fit to place himself in the midst of my mess.  They are opportunities to worship and wonder at all God is and who he wants to be in my life.

 I am so grateful for women like Margaret who write so honestly and passionately.  I am inspired in my own work because of her.  Her approach to this life and to the wonder of God and his work in us here and now is a great inspiration to me.

Follow Margaret’s snarky, funny, and inspirational posts on Twitter [], Facebook [], or her blog []. You can learn more about this great book by visiting where she’s offering some crazy promos right now with up to $300 of free stuff. I’ve seen the book for as low as $7.95 ($14.99 retail) on Barnes & Noble [] for all you savvy shoppers. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Sleep in Heavenly Peace

We have what my counselor husband refers to as a "night routine." There is a rhythm. There is an order to things. There is a process. I sit with my baby boy in the big black and white chair which does not quite match the decoration in his room, but is the best chair for the rocking of babies. Here we sit together and he drinks a final bottle. A full tummy to get him through the night. Sometimes he drifts off before finishing and others are spent wishing the bottle would extend just a little while longer. Most nights I put him down awake and he is such a good little boy who rolls over on his tummy and drifts away. Some nights he wants to practice his standing skills and when he cannot figure out how to get down he fusses for one of us to come back. We sit some more. Tonight was different. Less than halfway through this sleeping draft, he pushed the bottle away, curled himself up, and dug deep into my chest. Soon the sounds of rhythmic breathing and a stuffy nose filled the air. He melted into me like a comforting blanket.
Tempted to gingerly stand and put him down as quickly as could be so that I could "get on with my night" I couldn't move. Instead, I put the recliner foot rest up and curled up with this little person in the quiet dark. For just a moment, I wanted to just be still, to hold on to this moment and savor it as long as possible.
When you are a mama of two little people under two years of age life is hard. Add to this the demands of work, financial pressure, a car that has long outlived its intended lifespan, uncertainty in shifting schedules, and grandma who is 18 hours too far to rescue us makes for a level of anxiety mixed with exhaustion can be nearly debilitating. Many well intentioned told me it would be this way--just how hard these years would be. These same well intentioned cannot help but now add that soon it will be better. These hard years. They will be over. Children grow. They learn to dress themselves. They take themselves to the restroom. They go to school. While these well intentioned are just that, their input rings hollow.
Tonight I could not bear the thought. This season will end, but what a shame it would be to wake up one day, knowing that moments like these will never come again, only to have missed it all. He will always be my baby, but all too soon he will no longer BE a baby. He will not fit on my torso, he will not melt into a pile of baby pudge, he will not smell of no-more tears or lavendar lotion, all of the firsts will become everyday occurances. All I have to do is look at his sister, her little body no longer one of a baby, but now a little girl. No longer does she reach for me, but instead proudly proclaims, "I DID IT!"
I do not want to wish away these "hard" years, but I want to take them in, ponder them in my heart as Mary the Mother is said to have done. I have spent my entire life "getting through" so that I can get to that ellusive moment where what is next is finally the moment where life is. I want to capture these moments and bottle them so I can drink deeply of them one day when the baby boy is now a man. I want to experience each minute, I want to taste each morsel of their lives, I want to know that I was present and for them to recall it as clearly as I do.
As we sat together in the dark, I said a quiet prayer. One of thanksgiving, one for safety and rest, one for his future. A final prayer I said for me. That I would not take for granted these years both the challenges and the triumphs. All too soon, the counselor came looking for me. Worried something was amiss. No, nothing was wrong. In fact, in this moment, all was right with the world. Even for just a moment.
So the next time I am tempted to be well-intentioned. Tempted to dismiss the hard for the easier future that is on its way. Stop. Be silent. If I must contribute to someone else's experience then I will do just that: contribute. Offer to bring by a meal. Buy an extra sack of groceries. Purchase a fift card for gas. Give my time so the one who is experiencing hardship can have a moment that is less hard. Be a friend. Lend an ear. Make some coffee.
Most of us are not bothered by what is hard. What we desire most is not to eliminate the hardship or to just get through. Rather, what we long for is the chance to just be, to take it all in, to find the beauty born of our struggle.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Thoughtful Enough to Know We are Not Thoughtful

On July 11, 2008, Peggy Noonan penned an Op-Ed piece in the Wall Street Journal entitled "A Farewell to Harms" ( and within it she proceeds to detail what she terms the "horrific" train wreck that has been Sarah Palin in the national spotlight. My thoughts are not about Gov. Palin or her political career, but rather Noonan's discourse on who Palin is how she has chosen to portray herself (not how she has been portrayed mind you, but how Palin has chosen to embrace as her character on the national stage).

I respect Noonan's point of view because she is not a hostile commentator. Noonan is most well known as the former speechwriter for the Great Communicator, President Ronald Reagan. She is a passionate Conservative and a keen political mind. This is not a member of the "liberal" media yet again taking pot shots at the soon to be former Governor or her approach to politics. This is a well-respected and revered member of Palin's own team.

My thoughts are also not about Palin's political career or her political beliefs. Rather, my thoughts are about another aspect of how Palin has framed herself as an Evangelical and the impact that Noonan's words (although not intended) on that role and how I view it.

Let me summarize Noonan's thoughts first. Noonan claims that Palin was limited in her ability to explain and defend her positions or in some cases even to know what her positions on some issues was or is. Noonan accuses Palin of using her lack of depth and knowledge as a badge of honor or what she calls, "Evidence of Authenticity." Governor Palin appears to be almost proud of what she lacks as though that aspect makes her more real.

Noonan's harshest and most sustained attacks are on the thoughtfulness of Palin and her approach to leadership and politics. Noonan charges that Palin was simply not thoughtful. She never learned how others think or why. This was not of interest to her in any capacity and in that lack of insight, she could be right without knowing why or how the other side was in turn wrong. Noonan goes so far as to state that Palin wasn't thoughtful enough to know she wasn't thoughtful enough.

A "ponder-free" zone is the charge from Peggy Noonan. And perhaps this lack of thoughtfulness and an unwillingness to dig deep and be both self-critical as well as a critical thinker about the greater issues is somehow a sign of her working class status and her being "just one of us." In addition to debunking the notion that Palin is or has ever been working class, Noonan decries that notion that the working class is who lacks these qualities.

While Noonan clearly is speaking to Palin's political and leadership qualities I was struck by something all together different although one might very well inform the other. As someone who studies the rhetoric of Evangelicals and someone who identifies herself as belonging to a community of believers who identify with the Evangelical community, I think Noonan hit the nail on the head of how too many Evangelicals approach our roles and ideals in the world.

As Evangelicals we have a strong history of anti-intellectualism and an unwillingness to thoughtfully engage in both self-criticism, but also an unwillingness to think critically about the things that we supposedly oppose. We are unwilling to learn why others believe as they do or do not or why people believe or do not at all. We have waged an "us versus them" campaign as a means of persuading people that ours is the side of right and anyone who disagrees is opposed to us. We have not been thoughtful enough to know we are not thoughtful enough.

We have attempted to be the "common man" religious group amongst a field of "elitist" mainline organizations that we perceive has lost spiritual power and so we are the answer to that dry and dull religion by being everything that mainline religion is not. We wear this as a banner of authenticity.

Yet, there is some truth to our heritage. The Pentecostal movement to which I belong as a fourth-generation member of the Assemblies of God had beginnings about as humble as that of Christ himself. Jesus was born in a stable (cave) and placed in a feed trough for animals. The Pentecostal movement was birthed in an abandoned livery stable with the son of slaves with little or no education as its leader. However, I would also argue that over time as the movement grew and developed it took on a more middle-class existence but remained more than willing to remain at a place where we lacked education or a willingness to engage in intellectual thought and contemplation in order that we might wear our lack of engagement as a badge of honor.

I find this a dangerous approach to our faith and our influence. We are living in a time when the up-coming generations of young people are greater questioners and are seeking more insight in to what we claim we believe and here is the big one...why. How do we arrive at our positions and why do we believe what we believe. We must be prepared to give them an answer. In order to engage them, we have to step out of a limited ability to explain and defend our positions and we must know our positions. We have to know how people outside of our community think and why in order that we might engage them appropriately and be able to discourse with them and in turn be persuasive in our engagement.

Thoughtfulness cannot only be about "winning" people over to our side. We must also engage thought and to abandon our "ponder-free" zones in order that we can critically analyze ourselves and our approach to our faith. We must be willing to acknowledge where we have erred and caused harm to the cause of Christ and then move forward to not engage in those errors again. To simply pretend the we have not failed or made a mockery of our Lord in our history through our human action is not only naive it is dangerous. The greatest danger in all of this is the very real possibility that we will repeat those errors either intentionally because we have not learned from them or unintentionally because we have not taken the time to give critical thought to them.

Sarah Palin represents what is the worst that I see not only in politics, but that which I see in another community she aligns herself with: the evangelical community. Her lack of thoughtfulness is not a Conservative political trope, but it is a hallmark of evangelicalism and that is more convicting to me than anything she might do or say politically. While we may have come from humble beginnings it is time to put away childish things and to more fully engage in thoughtful and sustained critique of ourselves, our faith, and our approach to religious engagement. While Peggy Noonan might call this a "time for Conservative leaders who know how to think" from a political and governance perspective, I believe this is a crucial time for believers and evangelical leaders who know how to think and are willing to step out from our anti-intellectual past and to become the thoughtful leaders of a future generation of Christ followers.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

What Price Freedom?

Over the course of the last few weeks, I have really been contemplating the concept of freedom. What does freedom really mean? What is freedom? It seems that today, the 4th of July, that there is no better day to take this internal debate and hash it out before the universe.

We hear a lot about freedom in our American culture. It usually follows a discussion about personal liberty and the rugged individualism that so permeates the American mystique. Is that really what the founding fathers had intended? Is that really what they were fighting for? Since leaving his beloved Virginia a couple of years ago, Kevin and I have become students of those fathers. We watch every history channel documentary, listen to historians analysis in books on cd/podcast, and talk for hours about the courage and conviction these men seemed to possess yet find a realism about them in their flaws. While "all men are created equal" was the words they would write, it was not a belief most of them held. When Abagail Adams implored her husband to "remember the Ladies" he scoffed at her ideas, yet she was his most trusted advisor and surely was both husband and wife while he was away contemplating what this new experiment would look like. Most could not reconcile the issue of the slave with their concepts of freedom and concocted convoluted notions of person hood to justify the evil they could not admit to themselves was present in their midst.

We have a mystique in America about the "rugged individualist" and we call this freedom. Yet, often what we lack is the need to have interdependence to serve right along side our Independence. Even the founders understood this. While they fought for liberty from tyranny, they could not go it alone. Had the colonies not come together, the outcome could have been very different. They had to work out their differences which often led to compromise in order to plot out what was to become the United States of America. United is a key word there. Individualism and unity strike me as being in contrast to one another. Yet, united is what we needed to become in order to accomplish our Independence. Ironic, isn't it?

It was the Union which Lincoln sought to preserve. While the sin of slavery was ripping the nation apart, in order to truly deal with it, the union was necessary. It was a messy, bloody and flawed process that we often still see scars of, but United we emerged as the house divided against itself could not stand.

As a Christian, I can only reconcile what freedom actually is by looking at the freedom I am given in Christ. Yet, does that freedom mean that I can now live my life as I choose? Am I free to be and do whatever my heart sees fit? Over and over, the answer to that is no. In order to live out my freedom I am accountable to both God and my fellow man. I will be judged on my actions and how I treat those God has brought into my life. I need a community in order to be challenged, corrected and to promote growth. I am free, yet I am not independent, but rather dependant.

It seems that to have freedom, we must not "go it alone," but we must see our need for one another. Isn't that what God decided from day one in the garden? Maybe he meant, it is not good for mankind to be an individual, but I will make another with which they can be interdependent so that real freedom can be found.

I saw this posted on a friends Facebook page this morning: "It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don't use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that's how freedom grows. For everything we know about God's Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That's an act of true freedom." Paul the Apostle.

To truly be free we must be willing to give up ourselves and to serve one another. To love others as ourselves which is a denying of self. Is this the freedom that the founders desired? While they may not have articulated it in the evangelical manner some would ascribe to them, I think it is a universal truth and transcends. We must care for one another, serve one another, put others before ourselves and give up our independence in order that we might truly be free.

As we embark upon our 234th year as citizens of the United States of America, I want to commit myself to serving more, loving more and giving up more of myself in order to see that the greatest experiment in history can live on, but live on in a new way where my focus is not so much on me and what is right and best for me, but what is right and best for those God has brought into my life and those I have yet to encounter. May we learn to be more interdependent and know that freedom comes at an enormous price, a personal price, but the God of the Universe stands before us already having paid the price so that we can be truly, honestly free.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Not All Soul Music Comes From the Church

I am supposed to be writing today, but there is a lot on my mind right now. Part of it is just the is the end of the semester and I am still both a student and an educator. I am wrapping up the semester and I am finishing chapters for my dissertation. I am also not feeling well with an annual sinus infection that is overtaking my body and my mind. So why, do you ask, are you wasting your time at a blog that you cannot keep up with and in a format that so little people pay attention to?

A wise mentor once told me that you need to write something every day. I struggle a lot with that as I wonder why anyone would care what I had to say. Well, I have come to realize that this writing is for me and if someone else happens upon it and it speaks to them get a double blessing. So I am writing if only to purge thoughts from my soul so I can then get to the writing that I have set aside for the day and then I can say I accomplished something.

In the same vein of self-disclosure and laying my predjudice on the table, I also have to admit that I continue on a path of spiritual discontentment and questioning. It is just the season I am in right now. I wish I could tell you that my faith is so strong and clear that when these moments come, that I am firm in my faith and I am not tossed by the wind. That, however, would be a bold and utter lie. I am naturally a questioner...ask my mother. "Why?" and "What's that?" have been the theme of my life. I suppose that is what drew me to academia and what keeps me here. There are just so many questions. I am convinced that God is not afraid of my questions nor is he bothered by them, because even in moments where I am lacking in faith, I can clearly testify that it is in those moments that I sense God is most near. So I will not call this is a season of spiritual dryness as I find God very present, but it is a season of questions and discontentment with the perceived answers. While I sense God is very close, it is not his voice I hear.

My sister-in-law is in a battle for her life. Makes all my challenges, questions and issues seem pretty small. I have a ton of knowledge and lots of education to back it up, but the question of cancer looms large in my mind. No academic degree can tell me why a person who lives in the light of grace and has the most intense faith and trust in the goodness of God is being tortured to death. I have a wonderful, Godly friend who asks me this often and I have pat answers about suffering that I give to her and they are all right and true, but even while I speak them to others I think...what a bunch of bull...and then I hear Karen speak and I am brought back again to the fact that this is not about cancer. This is about the goodness of God in the midst of the worst kind of human suffering.

It is my perogative that in these moments a person of faith turns their attention to their church and the community of worshippers that sustains them. It is here that much of my discontentment falls these days. Previous posts allude to this. I don't really "get" church right now. I will admit that we have struggled with even going to church as of late. We have had to contend deeply with the thought that we may have actually chosen the church we attend for the Pastor and now that he has been called elsewhere, we aren't so sure this is for us...yikes! Seriously? Have we become those people that were only attending a church for the PASTOR??? But it wasn't really the Pastor because as much as we love and respect this man...he couldn't get us to the pew every week. No, rather, I struggle more with the church universal than I do with one church in particular. And I do see myself as part of the problem.

We have not invested ourselves in our church. While we diligently pay our tithe and upon tax filing can say we actually gave upwards of an actual 10% this year, that is about all we put into it. Where your treasure is...there is your heart...10% is just about right. You only get out what you put in...why, why am I not putting more in?? Why am I not willing to make the investment?

The question is not where is God, but rather the question is where am I? I find more spiritual discernement in a NY Times Op-Ed piece by a rock star celebrity than I do anyplace else ( and yet I feel guilty that I found it there and not from "the church" like maybe I am looking in the wrong place. I agree that in times of struggle people often turn to the church for a place of comfort, but honestly, I don't think God is worried about the American teaching on financial security and not God security makes me crazy. When we turn to our church is to find something bigger and bolder and greater than ourselves. It is about stepping outside of what is happening in a fallen and evil world, not analyzing it from a Fox News perspective masked as a spiritual teaching.

So if we can get the same news from the church as we get from CNN, then why not just stay home and watch CNN? And whatever you do, do not turn on Christian Radio. You might be lucky to hear an occasional teaching if you can stomach the "Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise" programming that is sandwhiched between a vitamin infomerical and Christian legal programming. Really? There are people in this world who are dying and going to hell every day and our message is that if they had just used this herb combined with this financial plan and coupled with a donation to fight this legal battle, then God would save their souls. Really? If only I were rich and thin...sounds more like an article in Glamour magazine than Godly wisdom.

And yet, God's presence is strong. I sense him right here as I cry through these words. Despite my often lacking faith and my constant questions, the presence of God is so clear to me. Isn't that amazing? That is what seperates God from the church. No one even notices that we have been missing from church, but God not only sees and hears, but he comes to me before I can even get the question out and he lets me sit at his feet and soak in his presence and he stays right there until I am done with my questions. Sometimes he answers right away, but somedays, like today, he just sits silently and holds me tight because he knows even better than I do that is not the answer that I need, it is just him...he is afterall..the answer.