A Wretch Like Me

I am the worst kind of wretch. “Amazing Grace” is such a powerful song. It has a deep meaning for most Christians, and I myself love this song and have sung it more times that I can count. Although I am not a hymn lover per say having been raised in the Charismatic church of the 80’s, I am a praise chorus or worship song girl all the way, I adore this beloved hymn. Recently, while singing this song in church I was hit hard with a thought of just how much of a wretch I really am.

Me? The girl who has been in church since birth? The girl who knew all the answers to all the questions in children’s church? The girl who was saved before I could do anything “really bad”? Oh yeah, I’m the worst kind of wretch. Wait just a minute. I know what you’re thinking. Oh boy, its about to get real good! This “goodie two shoes girl” is about to admit to a deep dark secret sin. This ought to be good. Sorry to disappoint. No deep dark secrets, or skeletons in my closet (unless you count messy and unorganized a skeleton).

Ok, so how am I the worst kind of wretch? Hold on…wait for it…I’m about to get real here. I am a wretch because so many times I have sung that song and thought deep down, I was never really a wretch. I was never really lost. I gave my life to Jesus when I was 4 in children’s church, and I have served him faithfully every since. I have made some mistakes along the way, but nothing “really bad”. I was a pretty good kid. A little mouthy, but overall good. I don’t have an amazing testimony of the life of crime or drugs or gangs that God saved me from just in time. I had awesome Christian parents who took me to church all the time, forced me to have fun as a kid and attend VBS and church camp, and drove me to countless youth events as a teenager. Who in the world would consider me a wretch? I have graduated from Bible College, been a church secretary, nursery worker, children’s church teacher, youth leader, and volunteer of the year. I am a pastor’s wife and a licensed minister. I am a mother of 3 miracle babies, sister, daughter, public school teacher…I am practically a saint. Who in the WORLD would even consider me a wretch?

Then it hit me while singing this song recently in church. The Lord had been working on me to tweak areas of my life that need work. Several people close to me had been pointing out my flaws seemingly at all at once, and I was asking God to help me fix these issues while feeling sorry for myself because I was being picked on by “everyone”. Someone said it was because I was insecure, but the Holy Spirit began to show me that I was quite the opposite. Proud, puffed up, and haughty. I was full of myself. Thinking I was so good, that it was easy to save me. I mean, who wouldn’t want to be my savior? I am awesome!

At this point in time, you are probably ready to stab me in the eye with a pencil for being such a jerk. I know I would be feeling the same way. Who does this girl think she is? The perfect Christian? I have never claimed to be perfect, but honestly I have been a Christian snob at times. Believing I had the right answers, the right church, and the right way of doing things. At other times in my life I have been broken and at the end of myself. Like anyone, I have had ups and downs in my spiritual walk. All I am trying to say is that we are all sinners in need of savior. Especially, when we begin to think that we are pretty awesome in our own right. The fact is, sin is sin in the eyes of God. My prideful attitude is just as much a sin as the murder on death row. When I begin to think otherwise, I open myself up to Satan and a downward spiral of sin.

I’m sure no one else has ever been a spiritual snob like me, but just in case you meet someone else who is struggling with this, my point is: we are all in need of a savior. We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. We all need Jesus, and it was a painful sacrifice to save any of us, myself included. His grace is amazing in that it would save any sinner, let alone be a free gift for everyone who believes. Thank God that Jesus chose to save a wretch like me!

Roots

  Recently, a coworker asked me how we were liking the area since we in moved last summer. I replied truthfully that we really liked the area and were enjoying living here. The next question took me a little by surprise, ” so do you think you will put down roots here?” That was a valid question and not at all too personal, but not one I had considered. “I’m not sure we will ever put down roots,” was my reply. My coworker nodded and understood what I meant, but after our conversation was over I thought about the question for awhile. You see my husband and I are pastors, so we go where God sends us. Staying somewhere forever or putting down roots just isn’t something I think about. I am content to stay as long as God keeps us in a place, and go where He leads.   

That got me to drawing the conclusion that my “roots” are firmly planted in God alone, He is the only place I can “put down roots.” Just like His Word tells me in Jeremiah -7:8 –  “But blessed are those who trust in the LORD and have made the LORD their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit. (‭NLT)  He helps me learn to make a new town home for the time I am there. He alone is the greatest influence on my life. Let’s face it, a lot of who you are and why you talk, act, even eat a certain way is based on where you are from or where your roots are planted. I have a little piece of each place I have lived in me, the people I encounter and befriended have left their mark, and hopefully I have left a little with them that was good. In the end however, my roots are planted in God. He is my home.

To some it may seem scary to move around so much or to be open to move at anytime when God asks, but to me it’s peace. 2 Corinthians 3:17 says where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is Freedom, and Jeremiah 29:11 tells me that My Heavenly Father knows the plans He has for me and they are good plans. What else do I need? I have freedom knowing that my God has supplied all my needs before I even know those needs and His plans for me are for good to give me a hope and a bright future. 

So no matter where your physical roots are planted, be sure your real roots are planted in God alone. He is the best home!

Messes

Toys, books, legos, crayons, dolls with itsy bitsy shoes, tiny superman underwear, only one of each pair of socks…messes. My life is messy! The tiny people that live in my house, otherwise known as my children, love to make messes. I am not sure when they snuck out to attend the classes and earn a PhD in mess making, but they are experts!

A few months ago, I was packing up our house to move. While I was in one room packing, my kids were watching TV and playing in another room with the few toys we didn’t pack up. I would go in to check on them and find boxes unpacked, drawers cleared out with clothes everywhere, DVDs scattered around the room, etc. It was a nightmare. Were they protesting the move or just trying to see how crazy they could make me? I imagined their conversations went, “hey let’s mess with mom and unpack all these boxes she just spent 4 hours packing.” “Yeah! I bet we can get the veins in her neck to pop out again!” “Maybe she’ll pass out because her blood pressure shoots through the roof!”

I was so frustrated after a couple of days of this crazy cycle I thought one of us wouldn’t make it to the new house. So, I started praying…well it was more like complaining or whining. Dear God, why did you give me these tiny terrorists? I mean, I know I begged you for children, but…come on! Couldn’t you have given me some more compliant ones? Some that didn’t constantly make messes and expect me to clean them up? Seriously God, they just look at me like they have no idea why I am upset when they make a giant mess, then they cry and say they need help cleaning it up. They sure didn’t need help making the mess, but they can’t seem to figure out how to clean it up. What is the deal here? Help!!!

His reply was something like, “I know right. It’s not fun when people make a big mess and then cry to you to clean it up for them.” Me: “yes, that’s what I just said…oh wait, you are talking about grownups now aren’t you? Possibly me?” The Holy Spirit gently reminded me of times when I have made a mess of things in my life and expected God to fix it. He reminded me of stories in the Bible, and people I have encountered in ministry asking, “why me God? Why?”

Sometimes it’s because we made a big mess trying to do things ourselves or by being disobedient.

Well, that sobered me up real fast. If God can give grace and mercy and unconditional love for thousands of years of human messes, then I could deal with my three gifts from God and their messes. Just like God teaches us to stop making messes and cleanup after ourselves, I too can teach those tiny mess makers to cleanup and be responsible for their own behavior.

We all need a savior! That’s why God sent his only son to save us. John 3:16 tells us that he loved us so much he sacrificed his most precious gift. After we receive that salvation we are righteous or made in right standing with God. We are adopted into the family. Unfortunately, we are still a work in progress.

We must feed ourselves daily and learn to grow up and take responsibility for our actions, become more Christ like, and share the gospel with others. We don’t need to leave a path of destruction everywhere we go with our mouths, attitudes, and deeds for someone else to clean up. We should bring help and love to he world! (1 Timothy 4:12)

It was challenge to me for sure. Am I cleaner uper or mess maker in the Kingdom of God? James says, Faith without works is dead. (James 2:26) I intend to do some good wherever I go and live and work each day and not leave a mess for someone else to cleanup.

As a recovering mess maker, I know how hard that can be. I also know that God’s grace is sufficient for me (2 Cor 12:9) and that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Phil 4:13). With the Holy Spirit as my helper, I can leave a path of life and not destruction everywhere I go.

(See mom, all those years of me having a messy room taught me something, and you got your payback! Love you!)

Zip Line

Every summer my husband and I take our youth group to camp for an awesome week of time with God and insane fun. The camp we have been attending for the past 4 years is in the beautiful Blue Ridge mountains of North Carolina. One of the activities of the week is a zip line. You know, the kind where you climb a 60 plus foot high wooden tower that shakes the higher you climb. The kind where you stand at the top of said tower with no railing on a tiny pedestal while some people you just met hook you to a tiny wire and expect you to jump off the tower and slide down the wire. Umm…what? You want me to do what? And you call this fun?

Zip line tower at camp
Zip line tower at camp

The first time I laid eyes on that tower, I was terrified. Not of the height. I am not at all afraid of heights. It’s a little strange, but heights don’t bother me at all. I actually like them. It’s exciting to stand at the top of the Empire State Building or a mountain, or even a scaffolding. I know, I know, I’m weird. What terrified me was the thought of actually making the climb up that tower and once I did would that tiny wire hold me.

I quietly asked the people running the zip line if there was a weight limit. Meaning, will this thing hold me up. To which they answered, the only limit is fitting into the harness and they had a big one. They told me this zip line is made to hold 3 tons. We could put an elephant on this zip line and it wouldn’t break. Ok, thanks, I guess.

Well, I have been around long enough to have not tried things out of fear of embarrassment or just fear. I know what that regret feels like years later when you haven’t had another chance to try it again. So, I talked myself into doing the zipline. I might never get the chance again, I told myself. Plus, I had a team of teenagers who were looking up to me. I wanted to be a good example and not give them an excuse to skip out on this adventure.

So, I climbed that crazy tower. Huffing and puffing the whole way. I still don’t know how In the world I managed to haul my big butt up the rungs from platform to platform, but I did. When I reached the top of that tower, I was exhilarated! Maybe even heard songs of victory in my head. But then the nice men at the top of the tower started to clip me into the tiny wire that would hold my and my harness while I slide down another tiny wire towards the ground at a very rapid speed. They were giving me instructions, and I was trying my best to hear them and comprehend them while being scared out of my mind.

The next thing I know, I am sitting myself down on the edge of this very tall, swaying tower dangling my feet of the edge. The man is telling me he is going to count to 3 me and then the youth next to me and I are going to jump off the tower and slide to our death…I mean to the end of the zip line. Excuse me, what? You want me to just jump off this wonderful solid tower? And put my life in the hands of this very tiny almost invisible wire? Ummmm…this seems like a really bad idea. And they call this fun?

This summer when I was at camp our lives where at a crossroads. We were climbing up a tower of change. We had decided to leave our positions as youth pastors and move to another state with a team of people to launch a new church. The decision to climb this tower was not an easy one. We never wanted to be church planters or pioneers. It’s a difficult thing to be the first one to do something. I mean most of the pioneers died on the journey or in the first years in their new homes back in the pioneer days. Yeah, seems like a really bad idea. However, after much prayer (and some arguing with God) we decided it was what God wanted us to do. So we were working on selling our house and finding jobs and housing in this new place. We were at camp for one last time with our youth group.

During on of the services on night, I was reminded by the Holy Spirit of the zip line that was outside of that gymatorium. It takes real faith to jump off that tower and zip down that tiny wire. When you are on the tower you are still trusting in yourself to say put. Your legs and feet with the help of gravity, keep you there. But once you jump off there is no net. No one can catch you. All of your trust has to be in the people that placed you in your harness and the wires that are holding you up. You have to have faith that when you jump that wire will catch you.

I am proud to say that I have jumped off that tower more than once (one year I was pregnant and didn’t do the zip line for obvious reasons). Sitting on the edge of the tower is terrifying, but the scariest part is the first few seconds between when you jump off the tower and when your wire catches and you start zipping. It’s a few seconds of free fall that takes your breath away. It is terrifying! Once that wire catches and you start zipping down the line, it is the ride of a lifetime! Looking down over that valley with the wind rushing through your hair is exhilarating. It’s exciting, and amazing, and actually fun. The feeling when your finish and unhook from the wire is that of accomplishment and satisfaction mixed with adrenaline.

Living by faith is the same way. The Holy Spirit reminded me that as long as I was making plans and following the steps I thought were necessary, that I was standing on my own. Not walking by faith, but walking by sight. Just like when I was stood on that tower. Until I let go and jumped, I wasn’t going anywhere. I had to jump off and trust the wire to catch me, or I would never actually zip line and experience the ride of a lifetime. I couldn’t accomplish what I had set out to do when I started climbing that tower until I jumped off of it. It was time to stop talking about walking by faith and taking a leap of faith, and it was time to actually jump.

Well, I argued with God about that for awhile. It’s just crazy to leap without looking. To start packing without a buyer in place. To set a move date before securing an actual place to move into. He reminded me that no one ever had success in any of His plans without putting their full trust in Him and doing something crazy. Abraham, Noah, David, Jonah, Esther, Elijah, John the Baptist, Peter, Paul, and the list goes on. When they tried on their own feet they failed, but when they stopped worrying about what others thought and did what God asked…they soared. Just like I soared above the trees on that zip line.

So we made the decision to set a move date and pack the house. A few weeks later we found a house to live in, I was offered a great job, and we packed the truck and jumped off the tower. The wire caught us. We are still riding this crazy ride and times it’s a little bumpy, but through it all God takes care of us. He has performed miracle after miracle, even ones that would seem so small to someone else. He is for us and not against us. He keeps us safe, and sometimes this ride is even a little bit fun.

I won’t lie, it’s still terrifying, but when I start to get afraid, I fix my eyes on Jesus. He is the author and the finisher of my faith.

There are few times in life when we are given a chance to do something truly exciting and life changing. Most days, we eat, sleep, go to work, take care of the kids, clean the house, pay the bills, watch tv, and repeat again the next day. Some days though, we are presented with a choice to do something truly daring. Something life changing. Something that scares us out of our mind. It may be to talk to a stranger in a grocery store only to find out they are hurting and need prayer. Sometimes it is to stop and pray with a coworker who is sick or hurt. Sometimes, it’s to show grace and mercy when others show you none. Sometimes, it is to pack up and move across the country to do something you never thought you would do.

No matter what zip line you face in life, don’t stay on the ground or on the tower, you will regret it and you may never get the change again. Climb up the tower of change even when it kicks your big butt. Jump off that tower no matter how much it scares you, and take the ride of your life. World changers don’t stay safely on the ground. Trust me, your world, no matter how big or small, needs your to be a world changer. Whether you are student, a businessman, a janitor, a stay-at-home mom, a teacher, a doctor, or the president, your world needs you to change it for God.

Try it. The ride is amazing!

Me about to ascend the zip line tower with my pretty helmet and scary fake smile.
Me about to ascend the zip line tower with my pretty helmet and scary fake smile.

Seating Chart

It always amazes me what happens when I give my students a new seating chart. The other day I reworked all of my classes’ seating charts for several reasons. I’ll admit, I have used the automatic seating chart generator before just to shake things up, but not this time. I actually spent quite a bit of time planning these changes and strategically placing each student. Needless to say, most students did not appreciate my hard work. I always enjoy the quiet that eventually falls over the classes after a new seating assignment, as the students sulk, or try to figure out their new neighbors and surroundings. That is of course, if I can survive the complaining that immediately ensues as they enter the room and see the dreaded seating chart shining brightly on the projector. Reactions to the new seating assignments this week ranged from quiet pouting to all out fits and begging to move. Of course, there are always those few students who go with the flow and seemed unbothered by the changes, but they are the few. The looks of agony and annoyance I got were down right comical. Come on guys, I thought to myself, it’s just a seat in a 1 hour class. We are talking about less than 5 hours of your life a week. It’s not that big of deal!

As I pondered their reactions, I thought to myself, don’t I react in a similar way when my seating chart gets changed? Well, metaphorically speaking that is. How many times have I had to change and gone kicking and screaming with my eyes rolling and my feet stamping? More times than I would like to admit. In the 5 years I have taught at my current school, I have inhabited 3 different classrooms on three different hallways in 3 different grades. Each time I was not happy about the move. I was comfortable in my current “seat” and didn’t know why I was being forced to relocate for what seemed like no good reason. My frustration with my student’s reactions waned a bit as I pondered this thought.

What about the times God has asked me to move to a new “seat”? Did I go willingly or did I have a major attitude about it? I thought about the times I had to adjust my plans to follow His plans. If anyone knows about moving seats it’s me. My husband and I sold our house, quit our jobs, and packed up our 3 year old daughter almost 8 years ago to move across the country and attend Bible college. We left all of our family, our church, our stability, and ventured to a place where we only knew one other family in the entire state. After graduating from Bible college, we packed up our now 5 year old daughter and our tiny apartment to move across the country again to a town we had never heard of where we only knew one family. These times I went willingly and excitedly to follow God’s plan. Still, each time I fretted over the small things at times and had to move out of my comfort zone to make friends with my new group I had been “assigned.” I have no doubt that at times my face looked similar to my students’ as I checked out my new surroundings and warily ventured into the new territory.

I knew that God saw the big picture and had a plan. He knew the people that I needed to be near to help and those who needed to be close to me to help me. He hadn’t chosen these assignments with a random selection program. He had thought about it and strategically placed us each time. Just as I had with my students. I had placed students who were strong in my subject at tables with those who need help or guidance. My hopes were that they could learn from each other, and in turn they would all become stronger. I saw the big picture and was trying to help each student thus making the whole class stronger.

Then it occurs to me that is exactly what my administration does when they move the teachers around each year. They aren’t motivated by a secret need to torture us as my students think I am. They are hoping to find the right combinations of teachers that can learn from each other and in turn make the school stronger. Of course, that is what God does each time He leads me to a new assignment whether it be a whole new state or just someone new I need to talk with and be a friend to. He sees the big picture and though the assignments may not make sense to me or others around me, he has a master plan in mind the whole time.

Once again, I have learned a lesson from my students. As I continue to try to make everything go exactly like I want it and get frustrated when everything isn’t perfect, I realize that I myself am frustrating and not always easy to work with. One more thing to add to my list of things I need to improve about myself. Have a better attitude when asked to change locations. Don’t give the teacher a hard time by whining and complaining. Instead, try to see the big picture and go with the flow. Be flexible and look for ways to help rather then hinder.

Confessions of a imperfect perfectionist pursuing God's will for my life