Saturday, December 31, 2011

Just a Little Twist

All it takes to change the Word of God and how It is presented is a little twist.  Most little twists are not even noticeable, but they carry huge ramifications.  Here's a recent example to show you what I mean.  I recently heard a sermon from a pastor in my area; the pastor of a regular Baptist church. The sermon was on The Prodigal Son, a familiar passage of Scripture to most of us.  There are a few twists in this sermon, but the one I'm going to concentrate on here is the fact that this pastor states "All things work together for God's glory, but not all things work together for good....in our own life."  This statement is around the 17 minute mark here in this online sermon.  If you listen to the whole thing, you will note that this pastor had previously quoted Romans 8:28 and clarified that things don't necessarily work together for good for those who are not called and who do not love God.  That's not how the Bible states it, but that's how this preacher presents it here. I won't argue this point,  but when he states this at minute 17, it is not qualified by those who don't love Him.  As a matter of fact, he says, "in our own life..." indicating he's talking to his believing listeners (members of his church).

This is just a little twist.  God states in Romans 8:28, "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose."  At minute 17, this preacher disagrees with God on this issue.

One might argue that this is a small point, not that big of a deal. But, it IS a big deal and I'll tell you why. If this preacher disagrees with God on this point, what other points does he disagree with God on?  When God makes a statement, we don't get to disagree with Him.  If God says that all things work together for good, then all things work together for good whether we see the good or not.  This is faith in Who God is. This is faith that God is Who He says He is.  

Disagreeing with God from the pulpit is the perfect way to plant doubt in the minds of the people listening.  One little doubt has huge consequences. The serpent fed Eve a little doubt....just a little statement, "You shall not surely die....."  as though the idea is totally ludicrous. And Eve took the seed of doubt.

You might think I'm being hard on this preacher.  I don't think so.  The handling of the Word of God is not to be taken lightly.  God manifests His Word through preaching. Preachers have the responsibility of presenting God's entire Word as faithful and true.  This preacher is a doubter and has fed his doubt to his people.

I have issues with a number of other things in this sermon, like his portrayal of God's foreknowledge and predestination and his thoughts on man's perceived free will.  But, I wanted to focus on this one little twist today and draw attention to it.  

Really listen to preachers.  Weigh what they teach and preach. Compare their words to Scripture and make sure they measure up.  Make 2012 your year to be like the Berean people of whom, in Acts 17:11, it is recorded that they not only listened with eagerness to the messages, they also searched the Scriptures daily to make sure what Paul taught was the truth.  This is a responsibility we all have the opportunity to practice. You might be surprised at how much doubt is being planted once you start practicing this.

They searched the Scriptures DAILY. That's how committed they were to the purity of the preaching.  

~Tricia

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A Real Pause

There's a lot of hype about saying "Merry Christmas" instead of "Happy Holidays" this year.  I, personally, don't get offended either way.  Saying "Happy Holidays" does not mean that someone is leaving Christ out of Christmas, it simply means  they hope their hearers will have happy times through all the holidays of this season.

But, did you notice that the entire world pauses for Christmas?  Yes. The entire world pauses for Christmas. Whether they "celebrate" it or not, they pause.  And that pause speaks volumes because the world does not pause for any other "holiday" or occasion in the same way it pauses for Christmas.

Even though they might not understand what it's all about, they pause.

Even if they are just looking at their retail bottom line, they pause.

They pause for our Christ, even if they don't know Him.

They pause.  Think about that. The entire world pauses.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!
~Tricia

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Filter Bubbles and Christ

Mark Zuckerberg said, "A squirrel dying in front of your house may be more relevant to your interests right now than people dying in Africa."  He was making that statement in light of filter bubbles - that conclusion reached from the links you consistently click.....the profile that was created for you by your internet usage patterns. The conclusion that a dying squirrel is more relevant than people dying in Africa is reached by what is clicked on, what is viewed and what is read on the internet.

What is a filter bubble?  It's the practice of online engines creating a profile for you that filters what you view by analyzing and keeping track of what you click on, view and read.  Oh, yes, they keep track and they form a pattern and create an entire profile of you, then direct your internet usage to conform to that profile in what they think will be the branches of the internet you want to see or read.  You can easily see this demonstrated by having a group of friends, both male and female, both liberal and conservative, etc., search the exact same things on their respective computers.  You will be amazed at the huge difference in the same search on Google by two different people. Filter bubbles.

What does my theology have to do with filter bubbles?  It means that the world can track my interests. It means that my Christianity is visible to the world. To me, it means I need to approach the internet with intention toward Christ.  But, this intention is not limited to the internet. Aren't we supposed to approach all life with intent toward Christ?  Filter bubbles might just make that more doable for most of us as we struggle with the pull this world lures us into.

Filter bubbles might make it harder to look at and understand and know about things that make us uncomfortable, but we are not to fear the uncomfortable; we are to embrace it knowing that Christ is the answer.

My theology makes me want to be aware of filter bubbles, keep them in mind and intentionally go out of my comfort zone to look at people dying in Africa, at people starving in Indonesia, at girls being killed in India, at all human suffering with an eye toward Christ, knowing He is the only Answer that will help them.

But, sin?  Indulging in sin on the internet?  It may tempt, but, Christian, keep in mind, the world is watching.

~Tricia

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Beware Your Liberty...

I've heard people say, "Well, we don't have to go to church," or "We don't have to go" to this or that meeting at church just because it's scheduled when it is.  We don't have to go.........we don't have to give..........we don't have to work with difficult people...........we don't have to!

Beware this trend in your heart.  If, in the process of "practicing your liberty" in Christ, you find yourself using this liberty as an excuse for what you have grown weary of in your church, or in your life, you'd better wake up and check your salvation pulse. You might be dead.  No, it would not mean you have lost your salvation, but it might mean you were never a child of God's to begin with.

Our Christian liberty is not given to us to be exercised in freedom from service to Him; it is given to us so that we are free to serve Him.

The writer of Hebrews brings this home in a very real way.  In chapter 10, he admonishes us as follows:
23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.
This does not mean  "Let us" as in a command.  It means "Let us" in that we are no longer hindered from doing what he has said.  It means to no longer be hindered. The tense of the verb is present - we ARE no longer hindered to consider one another.  
Our liberty in Christ is not a ticket to do what we want, or not do what we don't want to do; it's a ticket to serving Him unhindered.  
Praise be.
~Tricia

Monday, November 21, 2011

How Many Irons in the Fire?

This might be the wrong analogy, but "irons in the fire" is a common phrase even in our modern day when we don't have to put our irons in the fire to heat them up.  Nope, we plug them in, choose the best setting and wait while they heat up.  I think the saying "irons in the fire" comes from the fact that many, many, many years ago, people had to actually put their irons in the fire to heat them up before they could use them.  Then, when they got cold, they'd have to put them back into the fire to reheat and do this over and over again.

Unless they had many irons in the fire.  If they were fortunate enough or had planned well enough, they might be able to afford many irons to put in their fire. Then the trick would be to keep track of which iron was put into the fire earliest so they'd know which one was the hottest, which one needed more time, etc.  Thus, we have the phrase "many irons in the fire" and we use it as though we really know what we're talking about, when most of us have never actually put an iron in a fire.

Or maybe it came from the use of branding irons, which ranchers heated to brand their cattle or other livestock.

Either way, I DO have a point to this topic.  I have found that I work best with many irons in the fire.  For years, I fought this, thinking I was only allowed to have one real passion if I were to do my passion justice. But, rearing eight children has taught me that having many irons in the fire - or many interests and passions going at once - actually helps me work better.  So, I've stopped fighting this thinking in my life and embraced my many, many passions. And the cool thing is, I don't feel like I'm cheating any of them, or myself by pursuing many at one time.

My passions are many.

I love writing and it's likely my favorite. I love to teach writing and have a successful class going through Community Education that I LOVE.

I love helping others through abuse recognition and recovery.  It's very satisfying to help someone who is going what I went through, then they see me living in victory and it helps them.  This makes II Corinthians 1:4 come alive!

I love cooking.  I do that nearly every day.

I love baking.  I do that nearly every day as well.

I love photography.  I am an award-winning amateur photographer and love the challenge of photography. The satisfaction of that hobby is all over the walls of my house.

I love scrap booking and paper crafting and the creative process.

I love home schooling. I have 4.5 years of that left and I realize that I'd better get my other hobbies in full gear when that ends. I've been home schooling 25 years now.

So, having many irons in the fire is no longer something I will fight. I will embrace my varied interests and passions and give each one its due and never feel like I'm cheating any of them, or myself.   I've realized it's ok to have all these irons in the fire because I am blessed to have so many irons in the first place!  My irons represent opportunities and opportunities abound!

~Tricia

Monday, November 14, 2011

Conditioning

We get conditioned to certain behaviors and that conditioning leads to expectation. Expectation, if properly used, can lead to great success.  But, it starts with conditioning.  Conditioning also has a dark side. Abusers know this.

As parents, most of us condition our children to believe they can be anything they want when they grow up. We encourage them to try their wings, to dream big, to create all they want and to learn.  This is a form of conditioning.  Most conditioning is thought of in a positive light.  We condition our hair for a better result. We condition our bodies to perform better athletically. We condition our mind to learn better by studying.

But, there's another type of conditioning we need to be wary of.  Negative conditioning.  This type of conditioning is so subtle that many people have no idea they are being conditioned to fail.  There are many types of negative conditioning, but for today's blog post, I want to focus on one particular aspect of negative conditioning:  Economic

Economic Negative Conditioning is Economic Abuse.

Here's how it works:  First, an appealing scene has to be created.  Often, I've seen "ministry" as the chosen vehicle of economic abuse.  The abuser creates a "ministry" mindset that makes it hard for the abused person to argue with.  If what he's doing is "ministry," it's hard to argue with that without seeming unspiritual.  This is economic abuse paired with spiritual abuse.  Often, abusers have to pair different types of abuse together to make one or the other seem plausible.

Once an abuser establishes his or her avenue of abuse, such as using "ministry" as a front, they have successfully set the stage for their next move.  In the name of "ministry" one can't want financial gain, economic success or nicer things.  If an abuser sets his victim up (conditioning) to expect less, they are free to be lazy, have other priorities, not work hard and then pursue their own interests outside of their financial responsibilities to the person they are abusing.  Inevitably, the abuser is doing this to someone they are financially responsible for.

Conditioning a person for economic abuse happens over time.  The abuser can't spring this on a person all at once; they take their time and patiently repeat certain ideas and expectations to the point where, over time, the victim automatically falls in line with the negative way of thinking they are being conditioned toward!  It's a process that abusive people have often perfected and rarely does a victim even know they are a victim until years into it when they wake up one day and decide they are tired of struggling.

Enough said for now.  Economic abuse is rampant among abusive people.  If you suspect you are in an economically abusive situation or relationship, tell someone you trust.  They may already suspect the reality of this in your life, and you speaking out will confirm it.  Recognition of abuse is the first step in stopping abuse.

~Tricia

Monday, October 31, 2011

Why I Love Being a Stay-at-Home Mom

I am extremely privileged. Extremely.

I am a stay-at-home mom.  I know there's always been a big debate over staying home with the kids and going to work out in the world.  Quite frankly, none of those discussions ever really reached me because I was too busy basking in the fact that I got to stay home and raise my kids.  I consider this one of the greatest privileges of my life.

Let me tell you a few things that being a stay-at-home mom has allowed me to do and learn:

  • First of all, being home with my kids has given me freedom to think. Yes, even while raising eight kids, I had time to think.  Thinking is highly important.
  • Having time to think gave me motivation to write.  I'm a free-lance writer and find that writing gives me a voice even when circumstances might not.  Thinking and writing go hand in hand, so each is essential to the other.
  • Being home with my kids allowed me to home school them.  We are now in year 25 of our home school and I'm still loving it as much as I did at first.  I've always loved it; it suits our family.
  • Being home with my kids allows me to diversify my interests.  I work best with many irons in the fire and being at home has allowed me to do that.  I've done a few things over the years, from direct sales to running an ebay business; from real estate investing to running a grief counseling organization, all from home. Being at home has allowed all these things to materialize because I had the freedom and time to put these things together.
  • Being a stay-at-home mom has allowed me to become a great cook and baker.  Out of necessity, I had to learn how to cook and cook well to feed this massive family.  I did not learn to cook growing up. As a matter of fact, I don't recall cooking even one single thing before I set out on my own. Nothing. Nada. Zilch.  But, now, I have become a great cook and have even developed my own recipes that I return to again and again.  My kids prefer my home-made pizza to take-out!  And, I love to bake, which is something I never thought I could do.
  • Being a stay-at-home mom did not hinder my earning potential.  I have always been able to earn money from home.  Between my free-lance writing, real estate investing and other home-based businesses, I've always been able to contribute to the household budget.  Plus, I became a savvy shopper and a bargain hunter, took advantage of yard sales and thrift shops and baked only from scratch, which saved a bundle. A person's earning potential is only limited by their imagination.  If I can pick up a thrift-store item for 99 cents, then turn around and sell it on ebay for $300, anyone can!
  • Being home with my kids has allowed me to minister more to them than any other people, anywhere. They were my evangelistic focus and I was always very conscience of their spiritual needs as I attempted to live out my faith in Christ before them.  All eight of my kids know Christ as Savior.
  • Being home with my kids taught me the importance of wearing a necklace or bracelet.  To me, getting ready for the day meant that I would get a shower and put on jewelry of some sort so that not only would I feel put-together, thus giving myself initiative to do something, I would be an example to the kids.  I never had much initiative unless I was dressed and ready for the day.  I guess this taught me the power of initiative.
I could go on and on about this.  Looking back, I can honestly say that not only would I not change these circumstances, I would do it again. I would stay home with my kids if I had to do this all over again.

And, the main reason I was able to stay home with my kids is because my husband always worked so very hard to insure that I could.  He worked two and three jobs when necessary throughout the years so that I could stay home. For that, I am very deeply grateful.

~Tricia

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Dilemma of Human Behavior

Oops! It happened again!

I recently attended a women's retreat and the speaker veered away from God's Word in a huge way.  In her opening introduction to her presentation of the weekend, she said, "You can memorize God's Word all you want, but unless you apply it to your life, it won't do any good!"   

And I sat in the audience and thought, "Hmmm.  Really?" 

Her entire presentation that weekend was all about application.  Verses were aplenty, but they were  nearly all taken out of context.  Quite frankly, the Word wasn't used during her talks, It was only presented to us in list format, with her supposed application following.  Not one time did this speaker ask us to open our Bibles.  Not one time did she open hers.  She had her notes neatly typed out in front her and that was her platform.  I was so disappointed I nearly cried.  Then I berated myself for not bringing my Kindle instead of my print Bible so that I could not only read the Bible on the Kindle, but I could play Scrabble during her presentations since they were of no value to me.

Instead, I sat there with my closed Bible on my lap and got beaten up the entire weekend.  And so did the ladies I took with me.  And that was the hardest part.

Herein lies the dilemma of human behavior.  Many teachers and leaders, pastors included, get an idea of what Christianity looks like and they tailor their teaching to that look.  They have to set aside God's Word in order to accomplish this, however.  They are so focused on human behavior, instead of God's Word, that they actually end up abandoning the Word to accomplish what they perceive as better results in the behavior of their listeners! Oh, my.

Let me tell you something about God's Word.  You cannot change Its effects on your life by any decision you may or may not make. God has plans for His Word.  It is God's Word and these are His plans.  Even in my great power and might as a human being (sarcasm dripping here), I cannot change God's plan for His Word.  God states, "So shall my word be that goes forth out of my mouth.  It will not return unto me void, but it will accomplish that which I please."  Isaiah 55:11  In this, He was comparing His Word to rain and snow and how they water the earth to bring forth fruit later on.  And rain and snow do that every year. We know this since we have not all starved to death.

Some might argue that we have to make the decision to follow God's Word, hence the importance of application.  Really?  Is that what Jeremiah did when he decided not to talk about God any more?  Yep, that's right.  He was being so horribly persecuted, belittled and mocked that he decided that was it, he just wouldn't talk about God any more.    What happened when Jeremiah made the decision to stop talking about God?  Jeremiah 20:9 says, "Then I said, I will not make mention of Him, nor speak anymore in His Name."  So, that was Jeremiah's big decision. He had it all under control.  Human decision - the power within - you decide - it's up to you.  But, reading the rest of the verse, we see a different outcome, "But His Word was in my heart like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I was weary of holding It back, and I could not."

Wow!  God's Word was like a burning fire in Jeremiah and he grew weary of NOT talking about It, even in the face of brutal persecution.  Jeremiah's decision had nothing to do with God, but it had everything to do with his humanity.  But, God's Word is too much for humanity.  Jeremiah could not fulfill  his decision. He could not hold back.  God was in control.  His Word had so sharply penetrated Jeremiah that he could not hold back even though he tried with all his might.

To teach a group of ladies that they can memorize God's Word without result is teaching them a lie.  God's Word is alive, and powerful, and will do what God sends It to do.  Jesus is the Word. 

Little by little, teachers and speakers such as this woman chip away at faith in Christ and put their faith in Secular Humanism, which causes them to focus on human behavior.  The dilemma of human behavior is that each person gets the freedom to be grown through sanctification at their own rate of growth, which God controls. We are to conform to His image, not one that a church or individual has outlined for us.  Human behavior is very deceptive; we see one certain action and reach conclusions from that action and those conclusions are not always accurate.  Actually, they are rarely accurate.

For example, I wear miniskirts - almost exclusively.  I have found them to be the most comfortable with the best fit, so that's what I consciously shop for.  Does that look like Christianity?  Aren't I being a little "non-pastor's-wife-ish" by doing that?  Aren't I ruining a testimony of Christ in my community?  Aren't I even being liberal?

Uh, no.

You see, I'm under 5' tall.  Miniskirts come all the way down to my knees, and even lower.  They are perfect for short people! (Well, not all short people, maybe, but certainly women who want to wear skirts.)

Teachers and preachers, stick ONLY to God's Word.  You, and your listeners, would be much better off if you abandoned the "application process" altogether and just give out the Word.  God will handle it from there.  He knows what to do.  He knows where It needs to grow.  Stick to the Word. Only the Word. Your faith will increase, your listeners will grow, and you will come to realize that your applications weren't all that great to begin with.

I appreciated Dr. Daniel Davies at the annual GARBC conference a few years ago. He was the main speaker of the conference and after each message, instead of making application, he said, "This is how this passage of Scripture impacted my life," and proceeded to tell us how he, personally, had grown by studying the given passage.  And then he closed in prayer.  And, ever since, I have gone back to the passages he taught again and again and learned and grown more. And, yes, I did thank him.  

~Tricia

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Why I Can't Hold a (Paying) Job

Most people I know have a job.  It's not so hard.  Get a job. Go to work. Do what your job requires. Go home. Collect your paycheck.  Yet, I have a problem holding a paying job.

It wasn't long after we moved to MN that what seemed like the perfect job opened up for me.  I was SO excited!  The local crisis pregnancy center needed a new director and I had just the experience and personality to do the job.  Their board of directors hired me unanimously.  I was thrilled!  But, it wasn't long before I found problems within the organization.  They were violating the law on 21 different counts.  When I took my (surprising) findings to the board, they agreed to the wrongdoing, but immediately condemned me for bringing it up.  Things got ugly. I quit on principle.

Hmmm. Ok, well, that was alright since they were violating the law, the Scriptures and my conscience.

So, not long after I quit that job, the looming mortgage of a property we'd left behind sent me searching for another job.  I went corporate and applied for a part-time job at a large, local company.  I got the job right away, I think mainly because I can type really fast and I know how to dress for an interview.  When I took the job, I made it very clear that I could not work mornings because of my home school.  So, they gave me mostly afternoon hours, with one morning required.  Three months into the job, my boss told me that I would have to start working 3 mornings a week, and that my job would soon go full-time.  I told her I couldn't work mornings, nor full-time.  A month later, when I made no progress in keeping afternoon-only hours, I quit.  Again, on principle.  I simply could not compromise my home school any further.  So, I decided I'd rather be poor than compromise my family.

I'd been in Direct Sales for about 6 years, but only as a hobbyist, not as a serious business person.  However, upon learning about a new Direct Sales company, I researched and based on what I found, I joined as a consultant.  The company promotes itself as "faith-based" and that was right up my alley since I am in full-time Christian ministry.  It wasn't long before I found that their idea of "faith-based" did not match mine.  At a unit meeting, women were gathered, drinking wine & cussing, then driving home with at least 2 glasses of wine under their belt.  Drinking and driving are not tolerable.  When I complained, I was told I do not have to go to those unit meetings.  Well, obviously.  Not long after that, I saw a measure of spiritual abuse going on within the group. When I spoke up about it, I was publicly reprimanded.  So, I'm now in the process of leaving that company since I can't support their interpretation of "faith-based."  

So, my theology trumps my willingness to work in certain situations.  Sometimes living our theology makes this type of impact on our lives.  No doubt that it could be me, however.  I have certain theologically-determined decisions that are non-negotiable.  Speaking out about (and not participating in ) violations of the law is one.  Speaking out about spiritual abuse is another.  Not compromising my family, not violating my own conscience, not going with a flow blindly.  

Does living your theology out ever dramatically impact your life and choices?  I sure hope so!  It's nothing short of an adventure to live out a solid theological position, letting it guide, instead of the world, and seeing what doors God opens up as a result.

My results are interesting.  Right now, I'm working 6 - 10 hours a week as our church's Administrative Assistant, which has me working side-by-side with my husband.  The hours are perfect & it's nice to have a little paycheck.  I'm also seeing my writing opportunities expand, and my writing class grow.  I'm super excited about that as I love teaching what I've learned as a published author.

So, I'll continue to let my theology guide me into life's decisions and see where that adventure continues to take me, even if it means I'm unemployed.

~Tricia

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A No Fear Strategy

Did you fear something this week? This month?  This year?  Have you felt any type of fear lately?  Perhaps fear of going to a new place or meeting new people. Maybe you feared confronting someone with a problem. Maybe you feared as a result of watching a scary movie or being startled by something unexpected. Maybe you fear the future because things aren't going as you planned.  I dare say, we humans fear in some way every single day.

I want you to think about fear for a minute.  If I say, "Fear" to you, what is your first reaction?  Maybe you feel guilty for having any fear.  Maybe you're in denial and won't admit your fears.  (I won't believe you.)  Maybe you shy away from even the word for "fear" that you'll have to face your fear.  Hmmm.

Let me tell you a few things about fear.

Fear is real.
Fear is not to be feared.
Fear wants to control you.
Fear causes unnecessary guilt.
Fear has already been conquered.

Think about fear in the Bible.  When the angel came to Mary, the mother of Jesus, what's the first thing he said to her?

"Fear not..."

Why did he say that?

When the angels appeared to the shepherds the night of Jesus' birth, what did they say first?

"Fear not....."

Why go there?  Who was even talking about fear?

Throughout Israel's history, what is one thing that God repeated to them over and over?

"Fear not....."

King David, the great warrior, prayed not to be relieved of his enemies, he prayed to be relieved of his fear of his enemies.  This is huge.

Fear is not a planned response to anything.  I highly doubt anyone wakes up in the morning and says, "Oh, I'm going to fear this and that today. I'm going to respond in fear to anything questionable that comes my way."

No!  We don't do that.  But we do fear.  Fear is a reaction, not a planned response. Therefore, the guilt you may have that accompanies your fear is misplaced guilt.  Guilt is actually part of fear and fear uses guilt as a vehicle to get a stronger hold on you.

Proverbs 3:25 says, "Be not afraid of sudden fear, neither of the desolation of the wicked when it comes."

Ok, for God to tell us to not be afraid of sudden fear, He's acknowledging that we have sudden fear. Our fears are never a surprise to our God.  He also says, "when" not "if" it comes.  Ok, then, there is no doubt; it's coming.  And He tells us we don't have to be afraid of it when it does come.  Talk about a great heads-up! Praise be.

If you're struggling with fear, and guilt as a result of your fear, struggle no more. Jesus Christ conquered fear on the cross of Calvary and HE tells us that we don't have to be afraid of fear.  Fear, and all its trappings, is gone forever.

Praise be!  Because of this, we can live fearlessly.

I've had a lot to fear in my life.  Read my story of fear here and you will know exactly how God took my fear and why my fear has always been very afraid to return.

~Tricia

Sunday, September 11, 2011

It's ALL God...

Think about Jonah for a minute.  Take a look at his life.  Jonah did nearly everything wrong in his life.  God told him to go to Nineveh and he said no and ran in the other direction instead.  God dealt with him pretty dramatically by having a big fish swallow him up, then spit him out. Only then did he obey, but it appears his attitude didn't change because after the people of Nineveh repented, Jonah got mad and sat pouting under a bush.  Yet, God still used him in a mighty way.  God's love toward Jonah didn't change. God's plans for Jonah didn't change.  God's promises to Jonah didn't change. Nothing about God changed in light of Jonah's actions.

Jonah seemed close to God, though.  He was close enough to God to recognize His voice when He spoke to Him.  He told the truth when his ship was tossing dangerously in the waves.  He owned his bad behavior and was willing to take the necessary action to stop it by going overboard.  He prayed in the belly of the fish, believing God could hear him.

God used Jonah in a mighty way, even though he was rebellious.  Jonah's preaching had marvelous results, even while his attitude was bad.

I'm not saying we can/should have a bad attitude.  What I'm saying is, it's ALL God Who did what was done. Jonah was His chosen instrument, but what did God need from Jonah?  People tell us that God needs our obedience, willingness and cooperation to accomplish His will in our lives.  Really?  

God needs NOTHING from us.  Nothing.  He is God. He will accomplish what He sets out to do in our lives. Does this mean we can do whatever we want?  Sure...............if we want to end up in the belly of a big fish or some other situation unpleasing to the human condition.  

I'm only saying that God does not need me or my pathetic attempts at pleasing Him to accomplish His will in my life.

Praise be it's HIS doing.  There's not one ounce of credit I can claim for anything, not even the next breath I take.

I'm so, so very glad it's all HIM.
~Tricia

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Standing Up for Truth

I know that "Truth" is subjective IN THIS WORLD.  However, Truth is NOT subjective.  Today, I stood up for Truth in a way that I had not planned.

There was an online sale. The sale site crashed from lack of servers compared to the number of shoppers.  A few people in my contact group mentioned that the sale site had crashed.  NO ONE complained; they just mentioned that the site was down; had crashed.

So....one of the leaders within the group sent a message to everyone that basically told all that, compared to the hurricane or fire victims, this is nothing and that maybe instead of shopping the sale, we should give our money to those victims.

I immediately recognized this as spiritual abuse and spoke out against it right away.  This resulted not only in me being publicly criticized, but in the removal of any opportunity to say more on that particular forum, which led to no opportunity to defend myself against public criticism.  That amounts to cowardice.

This forum I'm talking about is for a direct sales company that claims to be "faith-based," which is one of the reasons I spent my money on them one day, instead of giving it to hurricane victims, and joined by buying their starter kit and becoming a consultant.  I've had a few conflicts since I joined.  One unit meeting held women drinking wine and using foul language - then driving home after filling up on wine.  When I spoke to that leader, she told me I didn't have to go to her meetings.  Ok, that's for sure!  I can't approve or support drinking and driving anyway, so I was glad to be rid of that group.

Other conflicts are internal.  All the training we get is geared toward sales, of course, as it should be, but its disguised as "relationship building."  It doesn't really seem like relationship building when I'm building a relationship with someone so that they'll buy something.  I'm sure not all direct sales people feel this way, but that's what all the training I've received points to.

So, I have a constant, internal conflict.  When I meet people, I want to share the Gospel with them, not sell them tote bags and purses.  But, if I share the Gospel with them, then any opportunity to sell totes is then a conflict of interest.  Do I want them to look stylish and have the latest things?  Of course!  But, do I want them wearing that stylish bag to Hell?  Uh, no.  Do I want to contribute to the family income?  Of course!  Do I want to compromise the work of the Gospel in my husband's ministry?  No way!

I'm sure there's a solution to this, but, for now, I will keep my resolve to stand up against spiritual abuse every single time, without hesitation and without fail, even if that means I don't sell another tote bag ever!  This latest conflict over me doing the right thing even when/if someone else - with power to remove my voice - does not agree, is only the latest in a string of conflicts in this world for me.  The abuser keeps her voice in all this.  No disagreement with her was expressed except by me.

~Tricia

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A Protesting Comment

I'm going to do it. I'm going to speak out against not having God humanly represented at the 9/11 commemoration ceremony.  I know there are arguments either way, and I've read them, and some of my friends support the decision not to have any religious representation at the ceremony.

My argument in favor of it is different.  My argument is not that they should bring God into it, my argument is that they should recognize His presence, Which is already there.  I'm not talking about some wishy-washy famous preacher or religious writer who won't mention the Name of Jesus Christ.  I'm talking about having someone with enough nerve to actually mention Jesus Christ, acknowledge His presence in this place and thank Him for His mercy and beg for His further protection on our country.

Shying away from God is a huge victory for the terrorists.  That's what they've wanted all along!  Mayor Bloomberg is giving them exactly what they want!  The terrorists can't tolerate the Name of Jesus Christ, so they pull the blinders down on people like the Mayor and his cabinet and make them feel like they are actually serving people better by not acknowledging God.  I have news for the Mayor; he can't leave God out no matter how he tries.

Let's not disguise our cowardice in a blanket of shame and call it tolerance.

God was there on 9/11.  He will be there at Ground Zero at the commemoration ceremony.  He is there already and it's such a good, good thing for us all that He is so incredibly merciful.

~Tricia

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Application....Do We Own the Results?

I struggle with people applying the Bible to my life.  I've heard preachers, workshop leaders and event speakers be very adamant about how God's Word "should" apply to my life.  I'm not against the application process; I hope, pray, wish, believe, etc., that God will apply His Word to my life and grow in me thereby.  However, the application process in the modern church, as well as modern Bible study, has taken a disturbing turn toward a humanistic trend.

The bottom line is this:  God will apply His Own Word to my life in His Own way.  We, as teachers of the Word of God, cannot own the results our students have.

Case in point:  I once attended a scrapbook and crafting retreat on a weekend in which I was under extreme stress in my personal life.  The things on my plate were so overwhelming that I had spent quite a bit of time in prayer, thanking God for the opportunity for me to go to the retreat and praising Him for all the details that had fallen into place to allow me to go.  I love to scrapbook and the fact that this was a Christian retreat where the Word of God would be focused on was just bonus to me.  Before the first teaching session, I recall sitting at my table, looking out the window and breathing a sigh of relief over the beauty of the lake outside and my opportunity to be there.

Then came the first teaching session.  The speaker had chosen to speak about remembering God's Word and His great works in the lives of His children, and the Israelites' reaction of murmuring and being ungrateful. Very little of God's actual Word was used, other than to read the account of the murmurings, then the speaker spent the next 20 minutes telling us how ungrateful we are and how grateful we should be and how we should not be like the Israelite people and that we are not grateful enough in our lives and God is not happy.

Hmmm.  Ok.  I fully believe the speaker had the best of intentions.  You might be thinking, "Hey!  Maybe some ungrateful lady in that audience needed to hear that!  It's not all about you, Tricia."  But, I would disagree that anyone needed to hear that.  I would agree that it's not all about me.  No one needed to hear this speaker's opinion, but we ALL needed to hear more of God's Word and more about God, Himself.

The speaker made a grave mistake in her presentation:  She "owned" the results.  She had decided ahead of time what we ladies should learn from her - and from God's Word - and that's what she presented.  She fueled her talk on the expected results - results that were extremely humanistic and filled with anti-Biblical concepts.  I was incredibly discouraged as we went back to our work tables and I was quiet, which is rare for me.  I didn't get peace until I spent time in God's Word back in my room, focusing on His attributes.  But, I was still disturbed because of all the other ladies who had just been put through that.

I fully understand the lean toward results.  Our schools are built on results. I approach my home school with a results-oriented focus.  I approached Kindergarten with the expected result that my children would learn to read and I tailored their studies to that goal.  As they get older, I approach each year with results in mind.  But, that is academic and academic goals are necessary to academic success.

God's Word cannot be approached purely academically.  There are times when we can teach it from an academic standpoint.  For example, memorizing the books of the Bible is an academic goal, reading through the Bible in a year is an academic goal, most word studies are academic goals.  But, preaching and teaching the Word of God to an audience is different. It's not academic.

God, Himself, describes His Word using food examples.  He calls His Word the "sincere milk of the Word, " (Hebrews) and "meat," (Hebrews).   Now, just think about that for a minute.  When we consume milk and/or meat, we do not have a talk with that milk or meat and tell it what to do. Nor do we talk to a body part and tell it how to absorb that milk or meat.  We do not say, as we eat our meat, "Meat, my arms are feeling especially tired today, would you please direct yourself to them?"  or "I'm having a bad hair day, milk, so would you please direct yourself to my hair?"  Nor do we say, "Hair, I'm going to drink some milk, so take this milk and shine up with it!  Stop being so dull and difficult to manage!"  or "Arms!  Get stronger as I eat this meat!  Take this meat and apply it to yourselves and strengthen yourself with it!"

How ridiculous!  We do not do that!  We cannot even do that!  But, that is exactly what someone is trying to do when they attempt to apply God's Word to another person's life.  The result does not pan out as they expect, frustration ensues and the person whom the expectations is thrust onto is left feeling worse than before, and much like a failure.

The great thing about the Word of God is that we do not have to direct It in any way.  God knows the hearts of the listeners, hearers, readers of His Word and He will see to it that His Word accomplishes what he sends It to accomplish!  What a relief for any Bible teacher or preacher!  The results are not ours to own.

So, how do we present God's Word without a results-oriented plan?  Just give the Word. Just like a mom gives her baby milk. She knows the milk will cause her baby to grow without her directing it and telling it what to do.  It will fuel that baby and the baby will grow.  The same is true for God's Word.  Give the Word, not your opinions of the Word.  Give the Word, not what you think the person listening should do, think, say or feel.  Just give the Word. It is enough all by Itself.  God owns the results and they will always astound!

More on this to come.
~Tricia

Saturday, August 20, 2011

It's Been a While

I haven't blogged in over a month!  Well, at least not on here.  Summer is a busy time for all of us. As the fall schedule approaches, things tend to settle down into a more predictable routine.  This fall, I'll be teaching in 2 different school districts' community education programs, working part-time in our church office, home schooling my 2 youngest sons and working my direct sales business, Thirty One Gifts.  Not to mention my continued work in free-lance writing.  But, I will find time to blog!  After all, I teach my writing students the importance of blogging, so I must set a good example.

This summer, I was introduced to yet another "Bible Study Book" put out by a popular author of women's Bible Studies.  The problem with these "Bible Study Books" is that they really aren't true Bible studies.  They really are commentaries.  Bible study involves the Bible and a study tool or two such as a concordance or a lexicon.  Bible dictionaries are also useful and important.  I may have to start a movement away from "Bible study books" as they are frustrating me more and more.  I don't buy them; they are usually given to me as a gift. I don't like to re-gift them and pass them on simply because I don't approve of them and don't consider them something I could give someone in good conscience.

Women need to be grounded in the Word. Period.  We don't need someone's ideals, suggestions for easy Christian living or ways to organize our lives.  We need to be grounded in the Word.  Priscilla (of Aquilla & Priscilla, the Book of Acts) was grounded in the Word.  She was able to minister right beside her husband and be a huge help because she was grounded in the Word.

I've made a few observations about women's Bible studies that I'd like to share with you:

1. Women's Bible study books are generally focused on people, not God.
2. Women's Bible study books are generally result-oriented rather than God-oriented.  A certain response is sought and the author feels good when that response is given. The response does not represent the heart, it represents the emotion of the moment.
3. Women's Bible study books often build on one another, making the reader feel that she has to buy the next one, or "must have" the previous one.

This blog writing is not complete on this subject, but I'm tired and it's late so I'm going to stop before I say something stupid in my exhaustion.  However, I will be coming back to this topic more and more because women need to be grounded in the Word, not fed fluff and stuff.

~Tricia

Monday, July 18, 2011

Humble Pie

It's been a while since I blogged.  I've been rather overwhelmed and chowing down on some humble pie. Eating humble pie takes time, energy and lots of patience.  It started out innocent enough and even fun. We were taking our new boat out on our favorite lake for the 1st time and I wanted everything to be just right.  We were not going to get a chance to go boating again for a while, so I wanted this day to be perfect.  And it was, truly. I was a good girl and used sunscreen on my face, neck and exposed arms, packed a few drinks and some chocolate, donned my favorite sunglasses and we were off!

The weather was slightly cool, but the sun felt good. The lake was a little choppy, but we just took it a little slower than we might otherwise. Our boat performed perfectly!  She floats. She powers up easily. She's easy to get in and out of the water and we had a wonderful day.

The next day, Sunday, I woke up and got ready for church and while sitting in my Sunday School class, my face felt a little itchy.  Then, my arms starting itching a little. Just a little. No big deal; I'd been out in the sun all afternoon, of course I'm going to itch a little.  Not a big deal at all.

That Sunday afternoon, we left for a 12-hour drive to Denver for a conference.  We and our 2 youngest sons. We drove to Lincoln, NE that first night and it was enough driving.  We got to our hotel in a blinding thunderstorm and were glad to make it safely that far. We checked in and got ready to go swimming in the hotel pool.  And every once in a while, I lightly scratched my face, then my arms, then my neck. No big deal.

The next morning, I woke up and my face felt like it was on fire!  My arms and neck were itching out of control and I was in a lot of pain. I realized what was going on; I was having an allergic reaction to the sunscreen.  One look in the mirror confirmed my worst fear - my face was swollen, red and starting to get tiny bumps all over it. The bumps were starting to form on my neck as well. And, my arms itched like crazy.

A quick stop at Walmart to get some anti-itch gel and some allergy medicine and we were on the road to Denver again.  I was, however, becoming quite miserable.  The gel didn't provide the level of relief that pharmacist had thought.

But, we made it to Denver, got checked in, had dinner with our oldest son (who was working the conference and got there ahead of us) and the first session of the conference began.  I did learn a lot at that first session; preaching from the Book of Acts, but I was miserable and my face hurt and I was swollen like a blowfish. My face felt tight. My arms were starting to break out in tiny bumps, and they itched and they burned and the bumps that were all over my face were spreading down my neck.

At this conference, we see friends that we only see this one time a year.  Humble pie; I looked pretty awful. People kept asking me if I'd been sunburned.  I had to explain over and over again what was going on.

Tuesday afternoon, the boys and I had some free time, so I took them to the hotel pool. I sat reading my Kindle while they swam and I was getting more and more miserable and my neck was starting to form welts and my face felt like it was on fire.  A friend spotted me and came over.  She wondered how I was and I started to cry softly. I was so, so miserable.  She said I needed Benadryl; that the allergy meds I was taking weren't working.  Her husband saw me after a while & he's an EMT. He took one look at me and didn't like what he saw.  Humble pie.  I took the Benadryl & waited a while. It didn't help.  The EMT thought I needed to see a doctor. I don't have a doctor in Denver.  But, I was getting nervous since this reaction was spreading.

Another friend, a nurse, later said she thought I should see the conference doctor.  The conference has a doctor?  I'm there!  By this time, it was 7:00 PM on Tuesday night and I had gone beyond miserable. The pain was intense; my face felt like it was on fire and the welts on my neck were bigger than ever, a few oozing lightly.  I was in trouble.

The conference doctor didn't have to take a very long look at me; he said had I not come to see him, I would be calling 911 by midnight, unable to breathe.  The welts were growing so rapidly that he feared they were also growing on the inside of my neck and could compromise my breathing.  He quickly called a pharmacy and prescribed a steroid that should quickly knock it out of me.  And he told me never to use sunscreen again.

The medicine worked. By the next morning, while I still had bumps all over my face and it was red, the swelling had gone down, the welts had shrunk and I was no longer feeling like I was on fire.  By Wednesday night, I was no longer in pain, but I remained red for a long while.

So, I ate humble pie. I was embarrassed by how I looked, especially since I only see most of the people at the conference once a year.

How does my theology play into this?  I was awestruck by the compassion of my friends in Denver. Everyone I saw was so sorry this had happened to me. No one told me I looked awful. When I needed help, help was more than ready and everyone wanted me to be better and felt bad at the timing of that reaction.  So, my theology played itself out in the form of gratitude. I am so very, very blessed to have people in my life who genuinely care about me and want what's best for me.

So, a little humble pie never hurts.  If you ever have to eat it, you might just find out who really cares for you. A hearty THANK YOU to all in Denver who came to my aid!

A very fresh-faced....
~Tricia

Thursday, June 23, 2011

It's Over and No Regrets

My oldest daughter moved in with us 6 months ago with her 5-year-old son. They planned to live with us while his daddy was deployed to Afghanistan with the USMC.  It's not an easy thing to have a grown child move into a household with a child of her own. I was determined to have no regrets during the time they were here.

It seems unlikely that there would be any trouble, at least practically speaking, but I knew there would be major adjustments - and there were.  Moving a 5-year-old into a household with three other kids, all teenagers, is challenging to say the least. While my daughter worked full time, I was my grandson's primary care-giver.  He fell into our plans, was included in what we did and tagged along, ate dinner and ran errands along with the rest of us.  This presents challenges because a 5-year-old is not so independent as a teenager.  So, the other kids were either waiting for me to secure him in a car seat, or assisting with that themselves.  Or, they waited for their supper while he washed his hands because he forgot (that's what 5-year-olds do).

The list of opportunities to react badly to any given situation during this time was long.  But, my theology kept me balanced. I knew my 3 youngest kids were watching me; I knew they could easily copy my behavior and take cues from me on how to treat their young nephew.  Many days, my decisions to do right were very intentional and targeted, given the situation.  I knew that I would regret doing the wrong thing; I had to choose to do the right thing, and I did.  I knew I represented all I had tried to teach my kids about God's love and I had to represent it well.

I can't take any credit, however.  It is God Who works in me to do what He will. It's His Word that strengthened me each day to face and deal with its challenges.  I praise Him that I have no regrets.  I hope that my young grandson will think of this time in his life, when I was caring for him, and think of me as kind.  Firm, but kind.

And thus ends a brief chapter in the growth of my ever-changing family.  Praise God for His goodness!

~Tricia

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Dinner Event

Dinner is never just a meal. Dinner is an event.  As a matter of fact, I've realized over the years that dinner isn't really even about the food.  Even with eight children to feed night after night, my husband and I gave them much more than just a meal every night.  I saw dinner as a few more things, besides the need to feed all these people I gave birth to. I saw dinner as an opportunity to connect, teach, learn, and socialize.  I believe a dinner event helps teach my children to be civilized.  Everyone, uncivilized or not, eats.  Civilized people eat socially - at a dinner event.

I still see dinner as all these things, and more, even though we only have three kids left at home.  Sunday dinner is even more engaging as my mother-in-law joins us and it's become a great time for her to get to know our three youngest kids, and vice-versa.  We often have others join us for Sunday dinner as well and it's always a great time.

How does my theology play into dinner?  Well, I cook dinner and prepare a table for dinner because I love my family. I don't hold out on them for appreciation; I do it whether I think they appreciate it or not (I'm quite sure they do as they keep coming).  But, even if they didn't, I would create the dinner event because I love them, want what's best for them and want to spend time with them.  More often than not, I cook what they like, too.  This is a way of serving my family.

Night after night, many of us stay-at-home moms prepare dinner and create a dinner event.  My hope is that none of you will stop even if you grow weary.  An occasional dinner out is great, but the routine family dinner is still a family staple.

Getting hungry yet?
~Tricia

Thursday, June 9, 2011

You Might Be in an Abusive Relationship if......

There are consistent patterns in every abusive relationship, without fail.  The patterns are the same and never vary.  The fulfillment, or manifestation, of the pattern can be very different, however.  Those differences can make the abuse very hard to recognize.  So, I'd like to identify some of these patterns for you so that you might be able to recognize whether or not you, or someone you love, is in an abusive relationship.  The thrust of this particular blog post will center on spousal abuse, but the patterns are universal.

You might be in an abusive relationship if.....

....your spouse makes threats disguised as jokes.  Example: Someone might say, "Oh, I'll never take you all the way to (_______) to visit your family!  We can't afford that!"  This is a very subtle way to tell your spouse that he or she will not be visiting her family in the near future, or ever. The abuser will actively make it impossible, and over time unreasonable, to expect to travel for family visits.

....your spouse assumes negative emotions from your loved ones. They never find out how your family really feels about them - or you and your choices - they assume disapproval and feed that to you and nothing else. This also creates a difficult climate in which to communicate with those loved ones.  Since the victim has heard only negative things for so long, they start to believe those negative things, which makes it difficult for them to communicate.

....your spouse creates a false set of expectations that can't possibly be fulfilled.  Example:  Abusers build up certain expectations of your loved ones in your mind.  When they don't respond the way your expectations have been fueled, you're told it means that they really don't love you or care about your life.  Then the language used is generally:  "If your family loved you, they would .........(do this or that).

....someone in your life builds themselves up while putting others down.  If someone in your life puts your friends and loved ones down while building themselves up, take note and beware. The abusers who use this technique are extremely insecure and this builds up their egos. The "put-downs" are usually very subtle, wrapped in false compassion and grief. ("Oh, I'm so sorry your Mom doesn't care.....what a terrible thing...")

....someone claims that only they, and people they love, really love you.  I've seen young women who've grown up in loving homes fall for this one when they get married.  They might be far from home or otherwise removed from their family for a time and the abuser in their lives paints a picture of him or herself as the "hero" who dispels all she's ever feared.  Suddenly, she "clearly sees" how he and his family are the only ones who "really" love her.  When her family does attempt to come close, he throws fiery darts to keep them at bay, and even convinces her that they are in the wrong, they are the ones creating the problem and he's trying to "fix" things. Many times, ultimatums are given at this time which are very hard to overcome.   This is part of the abuser's plan, however.  Don't think for a minute that any of these happenings are coincidence. This is part of the abuser's overall plan to keep their victim away from those who can see what he's doing.  Nope, none of it is coincidence.

Overcoming abuse is not impossible.  YOU can control your level of involvement in the situations an abuser creates in your life.  YOU have the ultimate choice, but it can take time, so patience is also required. Developing a set of personal policies that control your level of participation is step one in your process of overcoming abuse.

My #1 policy for dealing with abuse in my life is simple:  I will not ever keep an abuser's behavior quiet. Telling someone I trust is my #1 strategy.  Abusers depend on the silence of their victims.  I don't cooperate with their desire to keep me quiet.  I will tell; I always tell.  I get other loved ones involved.  As a child, when experiencing my dad's constant abuse, I felt so incredibly ashamed and thought that no one knew what he was doing to us.  Imagine my shock to recently hear a cousin say that his abuse was common knowledge in the family!  I had no idea anyone knew!  Chances are, any abuse you or a loved one is experiencing is already known, or at least suspected, by someone.

My theology plays a huge role in this in my life.  I look first to Jesus, the Author and Finisher of my faith, and His Word.  And I act.

More to come on abuse recovery.....
~Tricia

Monday, June 6, 2011

Let Go Of Him!

My husband is a grown man.  One day, this grown man was eating a dish of chocolate ice cream.  The way my husband eats chocolate ice cream, this could be any given day.  Once, someone with us didn't think he should be eating so much chocolate, so that person said, "Tricia, why do you let him eat all that chocolate?"

I replied, very quickly, "Let him?  Oh, no. I don't tell him what to eat!  He's a grown man, he gets to eat what he wants."

This person was shocked at my answer and wasn't happy that I wasn't going to tell my husband what to eat.  Hmmm.  I've had similar encounters that begin with "Tricia, why do you let him........"  People, I don't "let" my husband do anything nor do I prevent him from doing anything!  He's a grown man and gets to do what he wants.  I believe this idea of me "letting" him do things or not letting him do things stems from the fact that I'm his wife.  But, I can't find anything in the world, let alone Scripture, that says being his wife means I'm his life manager.  Uh, uh; no way; not me. I have enough trouble managing my own life, let alone his!

But, I do have to admit, this ice cream encounter made me aware and I began to make observations.  Over the years, I've observed a few patterns in the lives of married people I've been around.  A startling realization was that a lot of women take it upon themselves to be their husband's life manager as soon as they say "I do!" And those husbands are letting them!

Ladies, let go of him!  Let him manage his own life.  The meaning of "helpmeet" is not "life manager."  It's a helper fit for him. If you do a Biblical word search of the word helpmeet, you will discover that the word is used mostly in a military context.  A fellow soldier.  A comrade.  No soldier needs his comrades telling him what or how much to eat, what time he should be home, how long he gets to play golf or any other thing.

Let go of him!  I once gave a devotional at a wedding shower and I spoke of this very thing.  One of my points was that it's not our job as wives to change our husbands or make them into the men they "ought" to be. The Holy Spirit of God is perfectly capable of doing just that.  Our job in marriage is to look to Jesus, The Author and Finisher of our faith.  Turn your eyes upon Jesus.  Only.

When we get married and wake up one day and realize that our "Prince Charming" suddenly has flaws that were certainly not there before, we need to look to Jesus.  Prince Charming did not suddenly develop new behaviors. On the contrary, our rose-colored glasses simply got whitewashed and we saw reality instead of roses.  Jesus knew about those flaws long before you did and He has already developed His plan to sanctify Prince Charming, without your intervention.

So, let go of him.  Look to Jesus, let your husband live his own life, and I guarantee you will have a much happier husband.  Oh, and if you're worried that he might not choose you over his other activities, remember that he chose you in first place and will choose you over and over again.  He might want some ice cream first.

~Tricia

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Mentioning Jesus/Giving the Gospel

Mentioning Jesus at the end of a funeral message is not the same as giving the Gospel at a funeral.  Just so you know.

My husband attended the funeral of one of our members this week.  Even though the person was a member of our church, my husband did not preach the funeral.  We have no idea why he wasn't invited to do just that; it's normally a given with a sitting pastor.  But, another man preached the funeral and my husband attended.  And this other preacher did not give the Gospel message - not even once - during his message.  He mentioned Jesus at the end of his message, but that is not the same as giving the Gospel message.

My husband is troubled.  His burden - as ANY pastor's burden - is to lead his flock in light of the Gospel at all times.  A funeral is always attended by those who do not know the Savior and they need the Gospel. Not only so they can know Him, but the Gospel eases the pain of their hearts at a time of utter human sorrow.  My husband always preaches the Gospel at every funeral, without fail.  He has preached literally to thousands through funerals over his 29 years in the ministry and he has given the Gospel at every single one of the funerals he's preached.

So, the saddest part of the day is not the fact that this family laid their loved one to eternal rest. She's in Glory with her Savior.  The saddest part of the day is that NOT ONE person heard the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ at her funeral.  So, so very, very sad.

Where does my theology come into this?  A deeper resolve to do the right thing no matter what.  A deeper respect for my husband for going to show respect for that member, even though it was humiliating to be ignored.  A firmer decision to live out the Gospel even in light of those who ignore it.

~Tricia

Monday, May 23, 2011

Dealing with Abusive People

It seems I have been around abusive people my entire life, starting with my dad and his violent alcoholism.  From my exposure to abusive people, I've made quite a few observations about their communication methods and I believe they are noteworthy in the sense that making note of them might help someone else recognize that they are in an abusive relationship.

By the way, I don't participate in abusive relationships any more.  But, I will say that non-participation can be tricky as abusive people have a strong agenda that depends on their targets' cooperation.  It's tricky in that you can actually be lured into participation without full realization of your participation!  And, thus, an abuser's agenda has momentum to continue.  When it comes right down to it, though, this is actually a powerful realization for a person under the oppressive behavior of an abuser.  When we realize their agenda depends on our cooperation, we have realized the end of their agenda - at least for ourselves.  Just don't cooperate. Hmmm.

No doubt this is easier said than done but the Bible really gives clear examples of this very thing. Throughout the Bible, we see a consistent, effective method for dealing with abusive people.  In the book of John, John, himself, gives us a great example.  What I learned from John is to have my own agenda, my own plan, making the abuser's agenda much harder for him to accomplish.  John had his own agenda and it was clearly in place whenever he had encounters with the Pharisees.  The Pharisees were highly abusive and openly tried to trap John many times.  Their agenda was to expose his "false" teaching.  His agenda was to proclaim Christ. He saw to it that his agenda was not derailed; he kept his focus, always directing the Pharisees back to Christ. He did it without apology. He did it without hesitation. He did it with consistency.  He was focused and his focus was Jesus Christ.  More on this in a minute.

An agenda, or a plan of your own, is a powerful tool when it comes to dealing with abusive people.  When I was little and my dad was on yet another abusive rampage, it was all about him and what he wanted.  If we didn't appear to understand his demands, he got louder. If we resisted in any way, he got violent.  When he wasn't yelling, throwing things or beating us up, he was emotionally and mentally manipulating us. Growing up that way, it really never occurred to me that I could actually have a plan of my own; that I could actually have my own ideas, thoughts, plans, etc. It always had to be about him and we cowered in fear when he didn't get his way.

For the victim of any type of abuse, whether it be physical, emotional, spiritual, etc., having a plan of their own is not only essential to breaking the abusive pattern for themselves, it's essential for their own well being and sometimes even survival.

This is a starting point.  If you are in any type of abusive relationship or know a loved one who is, help them start with a plan of their own.  It can be as simple as a plan for a given day, a plan for the week, a plan for the year.  Sometimes, the abuse is so intense that a person can only plan for the moment.  That's okay, too.  The greatest starting point for this plan is the Bible.  Jesus Christ knew how to deal with abusive people; He did it all the time.  He dealt with them by telling them the truth, standing His ground with them and He never really answered to them.  This infuriated them, of course. Because Jesus had His own plan, He was not vulnerable to their abuse.  He had His own reason to be in the conversation and that's what He stuck to. He was not all about them!

Read the book of John and see how John dealt with his abusers.  John chapter 1, starting with verse 19 has John's first recorded encounter with abusive men who had their own agenda. John kept his focus, and he kept control of the conversation.  Read through verse 28 and see how he managed all that!  It's quite remarkable and a great example to us all.

Having my own plan has led me to develop personal policies that have shown to be powerful tools as well. There's something decidedly intimidating to an abusive person when their target does not cooperate and instead, cites that it's "against policy."  Now, granted, we might not be in a situation where we can actually say that out loud, but we can certainly remember it for ourselves, remind ourselves mentally, and focus on that. I created my policies through the Scriptures, trying to make sure I was not manipulative myself, but focused on what God would have me do.  God would not have me tolerate abuse, so that policy came easy.

How does my theology play into this?  First of all, I use only Biblical principles in this process. I have learned to not be afraid of my own emotions, but use them as though they are really gifts to help me through a certain situation.  For example, abuse often produces feelings of anger.  Well, there's nothing wrong with being angry; the Bible says "be angry and sin not" (Ephesians 4:6).  Anger is a real emotion and The Lord acknowledges that it exists and never tells us to ignore it.  But, what do I do with that anger?  I use it as a tool. It's a great motivator, keeps adrenaline flowing and helps my momentum.  In anger, I have more courage to resist my abuser and it motivates me to keep my focus on God and what He would have me do.  Anger does not have to be acted out in a negative way.  Anger was motivation for our Savior when He overturned the moneychangers' tables in the temple.  Anger is a great tool.  It's important to control our actions even when our emotions are high and/or negative and using anger as a motivator instead of a destructive force will result in a more positive outcome.  Quite honestly, there are some things that should make us angry!  And there are things that will produce angry feelings.  There's no profit in denying the anger or acting as though it's wrong to feel that way.  What we do with it is what counts.

Secondly, my theology plays into this because I realize that I don't answer to any abuser, I answer to God. This is also a powerful realization for a person being abused, because it frees them from thinking that their abuser has any authority over them.  While there are times when an abuser has authority (as in my case, my abuser in the past was my dad), ultimately it's your life and you will have the ultimate say in what you do with your life. A child does not have as many options (this is topic for another post), but when a child grows up, they DO have options.  And even a child has more options than they might think. I realized early on that my dad could control my actions, but he could never control my thoughts, desires and plans.  I made lots of plans. I wasn't able to carry them out as a child, but I made them anyway.  Those plans led to dreams and those dreams led to motivation and that motivation led to my success in overcoming abuse.  It also led me to create a set of guidelines for overcoming the effects of abuse and all its trappings.  This is all according to the grace and leading of God; I'm not going to ever take credit for what He has done, but I will tell you the steps HE took in my life to free me from the debilitating effects of abuse.  All these steps are a result of His leading, His grace and the power of His Word in my life.

I have a lot more to say about abuse and will continue to post in hopes that I can show how my theology comes into each and every situation I find myself in. Whether it's spiritual abuse from a misguided Christian or emotional abuse from an insecure relative, you can have victory over that abuse, one step at a time.

~Tricia

Monday, May 2, 2011

Justice

Justice has been done in the death of Osama Bin Laden, the evil mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks on America.  As soon as I saw a headline on the internet, I switched on the news for verification and learned it was true.  I picked up my phone and called my son, Mike.  No answer. I don't leave him voice mails - it's a thing with us - so I waited 15 minutes and tried to call again.  No answer. I sent him a text, the best way to reach him anyway.  I had to talk to Mike!

You see, Mike fought in Iraq - twice.  He was on the front lines in the battle of Fallujah.  He was doing urban combat at age 19 when his peers were headed off to college.  He fought - and he came home - but many of his buddies did not come home. I had to talk to Mike!

After a few more minutes, my phone rang - it was Mike.  "Mom!  Can you believe it?  I sure can!  I knew we'd get him.  We got him. I'm glued to the news."

"Yeah, we got him.  We got him," I replied, a hesitancy in my voice.  "I'm nearly speechless. I don't even know where to begin."

"I know it," he said, "I know it. It's amazing and just perfect.  I never had a doubt. Never a doubt."

And, inwardly, I cried at the tone of his voice.  This "boy" who became a man on a live battlefield in urban combat in a place 8,000 miles from home, had changed forever because of this war.  He was strong before he went, but now he's stronger and has a different focus.  His world is black and white now. There are no gray areas. He's decisive and sure; he's focused and intent.  Right is right and wrong is wrong and he's prepared to live with the consequences of either. He goes in with his eyes wide open, tells you the truth, and does the right thing no matter what.

I am glad that justice has been served in the death of Osama Bin Laden.  I am glad for all the families who lost loved ones on that September day. I'm glad for all the service men and women - and their families - who have served, fought and sacrificed to bring him to justice.  And I am glad for my Mike.

And, deep in my "mother heart" I am acutely aware that I will never, ever get over my son going off to war. I am forever changed.

~Tricia

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Reverential Respect?

Lately, I've heard the use of the phrase "reverential respect" when people are attempting to describe their "fear" of the Lord.  Ladies and Gentlemen, this is not enough!  I have reverential respect for a number of people. I would say I have that for several preachers and pastors that I know.  I would describe my feelings as reverential respect for the president, for our state officials and lawmakers. But the Lord, God Almighty?   Reverential respect?  Are you kidding me?  Nah. I have fear. Outright, undeniable, indescribable, bone-chilling fear.  I don't have a leg to stand on in His presence, and neither does anyone else.

Daniel, that great prophet who was described by God, Himself, as one who was beloved and righteous, quaked in fear before the presence of just the angel of the Lord.  In Daniel chapter 10, Daniel describes himself as "without strength" and "trembling" and "vigor turned to frailty"......fear.  He feared this angel of the Lord - and that was just an angel of the Lord, not the Lord, God Almighty Himself!  Daniel was without strength until the angel actually touched him and that touch strengthened him. Read Daniel chapter 10 and makes notes about Daniel's responses.

We want to talk about and dwell on the love of God - after all, He loved us enough to send His only Son to die for us.  However, He sent Christ to die because that was the only satisfaction for His holiness.  There was no other way to appease Him for our sin. Not only did He show mercy by giving us a Solution for our sin, He sacrificed Himself to make that Solution a reality for us.  Mercy. Love. Compassion. Grace. Salvation.  He is the Author of it all.  Reverential respect does not do it justice.  The only One Who is able to justify us requires much, much more than reverential respect.

What if He came to your house today?  What if the Lord, God Almighty stopped you on your way somewhere?  What if He came to your job?  Don't expect me to believe that you'd be swooning with reverential respect.......ah, no.  You'd be prostrate on your face in fear, without a leg to stand on, trembling, quaking, hoping beyond hope that you could gather the strength to run and hide......

...............until He touches you.

Even then, reverential respect doesn't do it justice.

The fear is turned to awe ................and we are silent from a mix of fear and awe and absolute wonder.  Nah, I see no reverential respect here.  That phrase minimizes His holy righteousness and that has repercussions that no one can live with.

~Tricia

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Where's The Meat?

Give me meat to chew. The meat of the Word of God.  Hebrews 5:14 says, "But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil."  "Strong meat" literally translates "solid food."  We know that babies need milk and spiritual babies need the "sincere milk of the Word" as stated in I Peter 2:2. But, once we grow to a certain point, we need meat, not just milk, to continue healthy growth. 

For the most part, women's event speakers are lacking meat.  I've attended these events, whether it be a Mother/Daughter banquet at church, a workshop at a conference or an event designed and arranged just for women, such as a rally or seminar.  These events are geared toward women, but they often miss the mark when it comes to meeting the real needs of women.  I've been struggling with these events and have mostly avoided them for lack of substance in the content. Now, when I do go to a conference, I generally choose the same workshops and lectures as my husband, instead of the ones geared toward women, because the men's speakers have meat in their content.  I've never seen men in the women's workshops, by the way.

Women's needs are not specified in Scripture to be any different from men's needs.  We ALL need the Gospel of God. We ALL need a Redeemer. We ALL need the whole council of God by the preaching of the Word. Some might argue that women think differently than men, therefore, our needs aren't the same.  But, God does not specify a different type of teaching for women than men. The Word of God is sufficient to us all, regardless of our gender, place in life, etc. 

It's hard to write about this because women's events are very prominent, women's "Bible" study books are very prominent and women speakers at women's events are very prominent.  But, they have taken on what I believe is a dangerous practice and our women are starving.  But, they don't have to be starving.  The solution is at our fingertips.

Identifying the Problem

In order to solve the problem, we first have to specifically identify it.  I see two main issues:

1. Women generally address the perceived felt needs of their audience.  In doing this, they fail to present the Word of God as It is written, but they attempt to "help" women by making the Word fit their agenda. One fault with this approach is that the only help to any woman is the Word of God, yet it is essentially being "set aside" for the convenience of the speaker so that she can address felt needs.  We don't know the heart needs of the women in our audiences, but the Holy Spirit of God does . When we teach His Word the way He intends - as it is written - then the needs of every woman listening will be met because the Word is alive,  and powerful to do so.  Our words are not. God's Words are.  It's that simple.

Another fault with this approach of addressing felt needs shows lack of confidence in God's Word. If I think that I can take God's Word and improve upon it by taking it out of context, using it to tell women what they should do, think, say or feel, and twist it in any way to fit my own agenda, I have a worse problem than any of my listeners.  I would be far better off sitting down, shutting up and allowing my listeners read the Word on their own.  Then at least my empty, hollow noise won't block out what God is trying to say.

2. Women generally focus on application during their talks.  This is a huge mistake because the application of the Word of God is not our job....it is the job of the Holy Spirit of God.  Our job is to present the Truth as it is given to us in the Word.  The rest - what He does with His Word in the hearts of the hearers - is His business and He will see to it in His timing.  This, again, comes back to confidence in the Word of God and in the Holy Spirit to do what He has promised He would do.

Is this happening because women are treated as an afterthought?  Are they treated as secondary to the men, thus the importance of their doctrinal understanding is secondary?  Historically, women didn't used to go to seminary; that was a man's world.  Have we allowed ourselves to be put in a secondary position, which has led to compromise?  This trend could be a product of its own environment, no doubt, but if we sit back and let it happen, we are just as responsible as those who plan events and put women on the back burner while planning!  If, indeed, that is what is taking place.

Regardless of why or how it's happening, the lack of spiritual depth and Scriptural Truth at women's events is not good for women.  We need the meat of the Word of God, not the fluff & stuff of modernism, secular humanism and the result of catering to felt needs.  In Scripture, we find many examples of women who were very grounded in their faith, who did not settle for fluff & stuff and who were leaders in doctrine.

Look at Priscilla in Acts 18.  She, along with her husband, corrected Apollos in his doctrinal errors and he took it from her (them) and went on to become a great, eloquent preacher, reaching many with the gospel.  Priscilla was grounded in her faith, not filled with emotionally-charged fluff & stuff that had her trying so hard to live for the Lord.  Her doctrine allowed her - rather, caused her - to live for the Lord and she was grounded enough to recognize error.  She fit our starting verse well because she had had her faith exercised enough to discern good and evil.  She not only recognized it, she acted upon it so as to keep the doctrines of our Lord and Savior pure.  Priscilla did not have time for fluff & stuff.

The solution: 

Women need to stop being afraid of doctrine and, instead, stand firm on the doctrines for which our Savior died.  In my experience, doctrine has been a forbidden topic of discussion among many women.  They simply don't want to discuss doctrine because they feel it's controversial.  Well, it certainly is controversial when a person's doctrine does not line up with Scripture!  The solution is not to avoid doctrine; the solution is to make our doctrine front and center of our focus, our message, our reason for being.  He did not die for fluff & stuff.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Bold Faith

I've been thinking about the bold faith of a friend of mine recently and every single time I think about it, I'm even more amazed.  This friend of mine purposely provokes people to think about Jesus Christ.  He's relentless; he provokes people ON PURPOSE!  He said to me once, "Oh, I've been provoking my brother-in-law with the Gospel and I will keep on provoking him."  Can you imagine?  He's not from the US, so  I have to wonder if that's why he's so bold.  In his country, is boldness more required? Or is it a case of reception, i.e. how he's received?  Do people condemn him, start rumors about him, shun him, or lie about him because of his boldness?  In the US, that's what often happens when we speak boldly about the Gospel and provoke anyone.  It has happened to me and I wasn't even purposely provoking anyone!

Here in the US, we don't provoke people.  Oh, a preacher might - from his pulpit.  My husband has had people walk out on his preaching more than once because of his bold, direct message.  Yet, he continues to preach the whole council of God, with or without the hearers' approval.  But, as a general rule, the vast majority of the Christians I know don't purposely provoke people.  When people don't receive our message, we tend to tone it down to make it more palatable.

The main reason we don't provoke people seems to be fear.  We fear rejection. We fear being labeled. We fear losing a relationship.  We fear.  Ok, I get fear.  Fear runs rampant.  We tolerate even heresy within the church because of fear.  Is our fear bigger than our burden?  Oh, I hope not!

Most people don't think there's heresy within the church.  I see it all the time, however.  I see it when a preacher promotes a political agenda rather than a Gospel agenda.  I see it when major doctrinal heresy is tolerated in the church in the name of "Christian" love. If we first love Christ, we will not tolerate or allow false doctrine within the church.  We will stand against it, not openly tolerate it.  Is it hard to speak out?  As my fellow Minnesotans would say, "You betcha!"  But, as hard as it is, it's necessary for the Gospel message to get out and remain pure.

I recall once when a lady in a Sunday School class stated, as part of a discussion, "Well, it doesn't have to be all about Jesus all the time!"  I was shocked at a statement like that, but didn't say anything.....(fear).  A couple of weeks later, she repeated the same thing and that time, I did not stay quiet.

I said, "Yes, it is all about Jesus, all the time. If it isn't, we can all just go home now."  The lady who spoke out was not happy with me.  My boldness for pure doctrine cost me that relationship; she walked away.  So be it.   Another time, a lady stood up and said, "We need to set aside the Word of God and love one another." At the time, I said nothing, but the next morning, I called her on the phone to clarify what she said. I thought certainly she didn't realize what she had just said, or that I had surely heard wrong.  Well, not only did she reiterate what she said the night before, she got even bolder about it!  So, I knew where she stood.......she set aside God's Word.  Was I bold for calling her on it?  You betcha!  Did I have a choice?  I don't think so. Does someone who truly knows Jesus Christ openly and intentionally set aside His Word?  Oh, my.  She desperately needs the Gospel.

So, that is why I will continue to be bold.  Plus, on the day when I meet Him face to face, I won't be ashamed - at least of that.  I truly admire my bold friend and hope that I can follow his example and step it up.

~Tricia