What I Learned From a Box of Parts

Parts

Two weeks ago, on July 10, my young friend Ryan decided to end his life.

It has been a painful, confusing and often guilt-ridden ride since then and I’m just now taking the time to sit and and write down how this tragedy has affected me. While Ryan showed none of the warning signs someone usually shows when contemplating suicide, I still can’t help thinking, Where were you Chistine? How could you not see this coming? You’re a pastor and didn’t see someone hurting right in front of you! 

It’s natural. Guilt is one of the stages of grief and naturally, I am neck deep, bobbing up and down in it’s waters.

But guilt is not from God and I need to remember that fact.

Guilt is from the enemy. Guilt and shame are the shadows over us in times like these and they keep us from moving on with our lives. It’s not that I want to just gloss over this tragedy and move on flippantly, I want to remember Ryan and I want to learn from his life and yes, even his death.

I want to remember this…

We had come by his house one Sunday afternoon for dinner with him and his parents, Ryan greeted us and was so excited to show my husband his new motorcycle. He was talking so fast and just kept beckoning someone, ANYONE to follow him and see. When my husband followed Ryan out back and around the house. There, propped up against the house was a motorcycle frame next to a box parts. “What do you think?” he asked my husband. In reply, my husband could only smile and sigh. That was Ryan. He always saw the finished product. In his mind, he could see himself riding this bike and all the fun and that’s what he bought. He didn’t buy a box of parts he bought a dream for the future. Ryan’s optimism was so strong it extended not just to motorcycles but to troubling situations and even people.

This is the part of Ryan I want to have in my own life and in this, I hope to keep a piece of him with me and keep his wonderful, optimistic spirit alive. I can choose to not see people as broken as so many of us do. We have a tendency to see the used and broken parts on people and then cast them off as rejects and no good. But I want to see them as whole, fixed, new, clean and shiny (ooh Shiny!) That’s how Jesus see us. He looks past the broken parts and sees the finished product. Lord, help me to do that too.

Unfortunately, when it came to his own life, Ryan could only see the box of parts. The guilt and shame of past mistakes were too much for him to move past. He took a shortcut and chose to go right to the end. I want to learn from this too. With every box of parts there is work to be done. There are parts to clean, fix, and maybe throw out and buy new. It’s a process and a journey, but there will be a whole product at the end. This must extend to myself as well, I can’t let the my own broken parts keep me from moving on. I need to do the work of moving past the guilt I feel over Ryan’s death and I have to be patient in the grief. Remembering that GUILT IS NOT FROM GOD on a daily basis will help me to stay out of  it’s oppressive shadow and keep me enthusiastically moving to the end, eager to see the final product.

For more on Ryan, here’s a great piece written the day he died by his first friend. I thought it was beautiful and was honored to read it at his funeral.

How I Made It Into A National Commercial

photo 1

Me and the Fam filming a commercial at Cave of the Winds.

This week I did something I have never done before; I was in a commercial*. No I don’t have an agent, I haven’t taken acting classes, and NO it was not for a cheesy TV add for my church. It was for the Colorado Springs Tourism and Visitors center and yes, it will air nationally.

How did this happen? I said yes.

A few weeks ago I posted about how hard it is to write during the summer and my son’s failed crusade against an avocado pit. What I did not tell you is that one week after the boy got his stitches, I was in urgent care with the other male member of our family, Hubby is fine now, but did give us a scare. By this point I was so tired and frustrated I was ready to give up, but in the wrong way. I wanted to give up out of anger because I felt the world was against me and not allowing me to get done the things I wanted to get done. I was having a tantrum and telling life, ” I’m taking my ball and going home and you can suck it!”

Thank God for good, stable friends. My friend, Betty told me that during the summers it was probably best to stop planning. In essence, she told me give up – but the right way. “Summer is time for adventure” she said, “and without an adventure, what will you have to write about?”

With her good advice in mind, I packed my goals, plans and routines into a box and set them on the shelf until school starts. Then I waited for the magic to begin… and nothing happened. Do you know why? Because I was still saying no. In my mind, I still had too much to do. I have been so used to saying no to things due to lack of time, lack of interest, or being too tired that I was still saying no. My favorite reason to say no was to say I’m not ready. Do you do that? Do you say no to some things because all the pieces don’t fit together well enough in your mind for you to feel confident doing something? We tell ourselves:

  • I don’t know enough.
  • I’m not smart enough.
  • What if I look like an idiot?
  • I need more money.
  • I need to lose weight.
  • I’m just not ready.

In the pile of excuses I was giving out to not do things, God hit me back with this:

Ecclesiastes 11:4

Farmers who wait for perfect weather never plant.

If they watch every cloud, they never harvest.

Fine! It was clear God wanted me to say yes more often and to stop waiting for my perfect circumstances.

Here’s how this changed me. Before God spoke to me this happened…

Rushing through the grocery store parkling lot trying to finish my weekly errands by a certain time, I was approached by a local TV reported asking me if I would like to be interviewed regarding our city’s pothole problem. To be fair, its more than a problem it’s a nightmare, but my immediate thoughts were, I am on a schedule and don’t have time. I don’t have any make up on. What if my friends see me? Doesn’t the camera add 20 lbs? Could people see that my roots need to be colored? It was clear to me that I was not ready to be on TV and the pothole nightmare would not be a cause I would champion today. ** If you now have the song “You’re so vain” in your head, that would be appropriate.**

And Here’s how I’ve changed…

I get a call from Colorado tourism at 8:12 PM on Monday night asking if I can bring my family to shoot a commercial at Cave of the Winds 6:30 on Tuesday. Again my thoughts, The camera still adds 20 lbs. My roots still need to be colored. Will there be a stylist available to me? What if there isn’t and I have to do my own make-up? Am I ready to be on TV? It’s still clearly a no, I’m not ready, BUT WHAT THE HECK, WHY NOT? I called the family together, we did some laundry, thank God there was time for that, and planned to meet with the production team in less than 24 hours,

Here’s the best part, it was so much fun. In saying yes to this adventure, we were able to meet some great people, see a Colorado land mark we had yet to cross off our list, spend quality time together and were given season passes to Cave of the Winds by the very generous general manager. We wouldn’t have had any of this if I said no.

I’m now looking forward to rest my summer wondering what other adventures are on the horizon as I continue to practice saying yes. So far, I’ve tried new things, retried old things to see if I like them any better, opened up my house to lots and lots of people even when it’s not perfectly clean, gone to things I never would have thought to go to, and changed up routines I thought were set in stone and honestly, it’s been liberating.

Living a life of yes may not leave a lot of time to write, but I gives so much to write about.

And now, some photos from our shoot…

The boys doing their own scene.

The boys doing their own scene.

An unsuspecting selfie and just to prove I'm not really that vain, I posted it.

An unsuspecting selfie and just to prove I’m not really that vain, I posted it.

My son's idea of cool, the painted electrical boxes.

My son’s idea of cool, the painted electrical boxes.

A light given to the Caves by none other than Thomas Edison and yes, it still works!

A light given to the Caves by none other than Thomas Edison and yes, it still works!

Again, son thought this trash can was so funny.

Again, son thought this trash can was so funny.

The cast of the commercial!

The cast of the commercial!

Seriously, if you ever get to Colorado Springs, Cave of the Winds is a fascinating trip!

* The commercial will be airing during the Colorado Springs Stage of the USA Cycling Pro Challenge airing on NBCSN

I See You

“My eyes would say ‘Thank you… I see you.’ And their eyes would say, ‘No one ever sees me… thank you’” – Amanda Palmer

Are you a Ted Talks fan?

I am.

My favorite is the one entitled “The Art of Asking” by Amanda Palmer. While I can’t relate to her experience as an eight foot bride, couch surfing across the world, or stripping so fans can write on me (hubby won’t let me, I asked), I can relate to the desire to have a direct connection. As I finished Confessions of a Modern Pastor, the next logical step from those guiding me was to upload it and sell it on Kindle. I chose this route with GREAT RESERVATION.

I signed up for the KDP Select and was able to market my book to the masses, which for my piece was two people. I never got over the feeling that this was a poor decision on my part and I was left with a nasty taste in my mouth. Please hear me, I don’t think authors who put their book up for sale on Kindle are bad, it’s just I never felt it was right for my piece. For one, it’s not a book, it’s a booklet. But more specifically, it’s an apology. Why should anyone pay for someone to apologize?  Confessions was never meant to be sold, it was meant to be given away. I want a direct connection. I wanted to say to those hurt, I see you.

For those of you late to the party or may have not heard, I’m not looking to get famous by being a Christian blogger. I’m not looking to make a name for myself by preaching on the internet. I really just want to connect with people who need to know God loves them, soooo much.

On July 15, my contract with Kindle ends and you will be able to download Confessions of a Modern Pastor free on this site. Until then, the book will remain on Kindle for the cheapest price allowable, which is $0 .99.

I see you,

Modern Pastor

The Great Avocado Crusader

The boy waiting to be stitched up.

The boy waiting to be stitched up.

It’s summer vacation here and yesterdays plate was full of things I wanted to do for myself. I finished my weekly errands early and was looking forward to an afternoon of writing and relaxing. Instead of hours in front of my long neglected computer, I spent the afternoon in Urgent Care with my 12 year old son who chose to attack an avocado pit with a knife, missed the pit and caused a wound on his hand which 4 stitches needed to close.

The wound

The wound

Welcome to summer.

Every year, I assume the summer months will give more time to write and work on projects and surprisingly I have less. The plans I make for myself fall through my hands like sand and I can’t get a grip on anything. I have visions of myself locked in my room crafting the next great novel, only to have reality set in that I will barely be able to get a weekly blog post out… sorry about missing last week by the way. Even now as I sit and write I have a cat sitting on my lap trying with every ounce of his little body to communicate it is not the computer that is neglected but it’s him. Only him.

As people, we are pulled in so many directions we often fall short of our own expectations, like writing one blog post a week. Things get in the way of the things we are doing to improve and stretch ourselves. What’s a person to do?

I don’t know.

All I can tell you is what I did when a simple lunch turned into a trip to urgent care, or a quick ATM trip turned into an ordeal because the money got stuck and now we have to go in and again, time is slipping away. (yes, that happened too.)

I get angry. I have a tantrum.

Wait, did you think I would say something sweet like, “I stop, breathe and pray”? HA!

Nope, it’s tantrum time, then I pray… for forgiveness.

I’m a control freak and when I feel my time slipping away I do not do well. In all seriousness I have to stop and reprioritize. I go over in my head what I had hoped to do instead of waiting for the teller at the bank to get my money, and I say a little prayer to God asking him to help me to learn something and enjoy what time I do have with whomever I am with, whether it be the bank teller, urgent care nurse or one of my children. I wonder how can I make this the best situation possible? How can I laugh at this?

It doesn’t always work, but I try.

Cat

He’s VERY neglected.

Now that I’m back in my chair, with kitty in lap, trying to make up for lost writing time, all I can hear is my son, the Great Avocado Pit Crusader’s words as he left my writing room, “You should write about our Urgent Care trip.” At first I thought, Yeah right, how can I make that about God? But I can. Because everything can be a blessing if we let it. I can say that I may not have had the time to do what I wanted to do, but my son and I had a great time together, despite the pain and the fear of what he was facing. I got to be there for him, I got to watch him overcome the fear, I made him laugh as I lifted a few urgent care “souvenirs” for his sister (she always wants cotton balls or ear scope covers – even at sixteen.) Then I took him to get candy. Every second of every day and every event and can be a blessing if we choose to live this way.

So in conclusion, it’s summer. I may or may not make my goal of posting every week because life is busy and I have kids and cats and a husband, all of whom are not distractions but wonderful blessings.

How do you handle distractions? Can you turn them into blessings?

Be Still in the Darkness

By Zouavman Le Zouave (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

 I have bad days.

My really bad days come with an added irrational feeling that I’m not doing enough. I feel I should pray more, read the Bible more, meditate more… anything “more” related that could lift the clouds and allow me to be joyful again.

But it doesn’t work that way does it?

Let’s be honest, we’ve all been there and we’ve tried everything we know to stop the hemorrhage of emotions overtaking our lives when in actuality, only time works. We have to wait.

While we wait, we long for the good days when we were hopeful, steadfast, and happy and then we usually chastise ourselves because we fail stay in this place of peace and joy. Sometimes I wonder if it is even possible to stay joyful. Why can’t we find a way to stay on the top of our game, feeling blessed, motivated and excited?

Deep down we know the answer; we need the bad days in order to grow. We need the ambivalent days and even the clouds these dark days bring. They provide change. They provide times of quiet, times of reflective thinking. When we are always up, we don’t see the things within ourselves that need to change. We have a tendency to hide during the dark days. We want them to go away and do all we can to make them go away thus failing to learn anything about ourselves. We can’t even be honest about going through them because there are those in the church who will tell us to do more. They tell us to press into God and ask Him to take away all of the bad feelings and give us joy. They encourage us to find victory over the darkness, when instead, I contend, it is IN the darkness we can find victory.  God says, “be still and know that I am God.” The moment we start to try to fix ourselves, whether by self-help techniques, positive thinking, chanting, or frivolous activities that make us momentarily happy like shopping, drinking, eating, we find it only solves things temporarily and we are back to the dark thoughts.

It’s a test. Can we stay faithful even in the dark days? Can we see that this will pass, just like every time before and once again we will be happy, excited and hopeful? Can we take the time to be still and wait for God to teach us something in the midst of the darkness? Can we find goodness and hope even in the darkness?

As I have read the Bible, I find that no one was happy all the time. They all experienced ups and downs. Solomon, the wisest of us all, tells us in Ecclesiastes 3:4 that there is, “A time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance.” We should listen to the wisest man in the world and accept the varied seasons in order to learn from them.

Be still, be still, be still.

Take the good with the bad. Take the bad with the good. There is a season for everything, Fear God, don’t do more for Him. Let’s not be scared of the dark; instead let’s be still in it. When there is no light to see by, the best thing for someone to do is to stay put. If you can’t see anything, you can’t see where you are going, so be still.

Be still, be still, be still.

How do you manage when life is dark?

What is Real in Heaven?

dreamstime_1292375I’ve been thinking about Heaven a lot lately.

Not just because of the movie Heaven is for Real, which I was forced to see, under duress, all because my son chose this movie/book combo to do as his language arts compare/contrast project. In the end the movie wasn’t as bad as I feared, and I really only squirmed for the first 45 minutes. I personally don’t do well in “Christian” movies. I have a hard time with the clichés, horrendous acting and generally predictable “perfect” endings. It gets even harder when the main character is a pastor dealing with his or her own crisis of faith and NO ONE is patient enough to let the pastor walk his or her own journey. Instead, we see the congregation planning to oust said pastor due to lack of leadership. But that’s a post for another day.

The movie brought up some great ideas of what Heaven could be like, which I will not reveal here (yeah, you have to see the movie) but as I said, it has got me thinking.

As I read Genesis, I have to believe God’s initial garden creation was something similar to Heaven. If you remember, Adam and Eve lived in an idyllically beautiful place and were free from shame, pain, and doubt. They frolicked in God’s playground, and spent oodles of quality time with their Creator. There was only one thing God asked of them not to do, “don’t eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”

As you may have heard by now, they ate.

The moment this happens they are aware of right and wrong and the Accuser of the Brethren, AKA Satan, is now in control. Adam and Eve now know they are naked and that’s just WRONG so they cover themselves with leaves. They now know that God is wonderful and humans can’t even compare to His big toe, assuming of course God has toes, so they hide from Him. They are now aware of the failings of their partner; the one they adored just a few minutes before, and even sell each other out to God when confronted. Because they did not have enough discipline to heed God’s warnings, they now have to deal with the voice of Satan whispering in their ears accusing them and everyone around them of wrongdoing.

In my version of Heaven, and let’s be fair, in ALL of our versions of Heaven, Satan will not be there. For me, this means there will be no one to point out when I’m selfish, arrogant, unfaithful, or unlovable. Just like the garden, there will be no shame, guilt and/or fear. I will be able to spend oodles of time with my Creator and frolic, just as He intended. i just hope we’re not naked.

How should this change us today?

If we know what God had intended for us (the garden), and we know where we are headed (Heaven), is it possible for us to live a life free from accusations here and now? Is this what Jesus did so well? Is this what He meant when He said “the Kingdom of Heaven is within you” in John 17? When He died for us, He took us back to pre-fruit status. We are completely clean and without sin. In theory, we should be able to live without accusations. But it’s so hard, isn’t it? We live in a world with constant attacks on our character and questioning of our motives. People can be cruel and accusatory themselves. Jesus knew this too and we see how He responded. He remained calm as Mary & Martha chided him for being so late when coming to the aid of Lazarus. He was resolute when followers left in droves because his teaching was too hard. And he was stoic in the face of insults hurled at him by the Roman guards and religious leaders. He never believed the lies. They hurt him, but He would not allow them to shape or change him.

I want to be like that.

I understand that while here on earth, we are not living in a place anywhere close to Heaven, but I feel I can do my part in disarming Satan by remembering where I am from and where I am headed. I want to respond in ways that prove I know exactly who I am and how much I am loved.

How do you deal with accusations from the Satan?

What Did Thomas Really Doubt?

ThomasNote: all quoted scripture is from John 20, NLT by Tyndale.

It’s after Easter and the person pastors usually like to discuss is Thomas.  We dissect the moment when Thomas doubts that the Risen Lord has actually visited the remaining disciples. We relish in the fact that we would never doubt the way he did. We crown ourselves winners as we read the words of Jesus when he says, “Blessed are those who haven’t seen me but believe anyway.” But should we be so quick to pat ourselves on the back?

I question the validity of the prevailing thought that the doubt Thomas felt was in Jesus being alive. Could Thomas be doubting whether Jesus loved him?

According to the Gospel of John, the disciples are visited by Jesus and receive the Holy Spirit. But Thomas was not there. He returns from wherever only to find a group of men filled with the Holy Spirit’s power and (in my opinion) totally jazzed. I picture the men giddy. Probably talking a mile a minute, because hope has been restored. They have seen Jesus and He is most definitely still alive. Then one of them, most likely Peter, says to Thomas, “You missed it!”

And those words are replayed in Thomas’s mind over and over and over again.

I can only imagine the hurt Thomas must have felt. He missed it. He missed everything. Maybe the enemy whispers into his ear, Jesus waited until you were gone. And Thomas is bated. He may begin to believe he isn’t worthy. Jesus doesn’t really love him as much as he loves the others. After this mental discovery, Thomas responds “I won’t believe it unless, I see the nail wounds in his hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in his side.” And in my imagination, he storms out. It was an open prayer. It was a cry to Jesus. It was a tantrum. He wants to see him too!

Finally he gets all he has asked for, only it’s 8 DAYS LATER. That’s a long time to wait for an answer. He waited more than a week for Jesus to reappear and that’s more than enough time for the enemy to torment Thomas with the thought Jesus doesn’t love you, He never did.

To Thomas’s credit, he waits. He doesn’t leave the group. He has the faith to stay and wait for his Jesus to answer him and he is rewarded. Jesus comes and proves that he has heard Thomas by addressing him directly, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side, don’t be faithless any longer.”

But is the faithlessness Jesus speaks of the faithlessness of believing Jesus was alive or believing he loves Thomas?

I’m a firm believer that everything the disciples went through are something we can relate to in our own lives, I can’t relate to seeing Jesus one minute alive, watching Him die, and then being told he is alive again. But I can relate to struggling with the belief that Jesus loves me, he hears me, or hasn’t forgotten me. So I ask you, what was the real source of doubt with Thomas? Can I really be that hard on him, if I struggle with the same doubts? Can you?

What do you think Thomas was doubting?

When I Ask Myself, “Why Do I Still Go To Church?” A Repost From Deeper Story

Dear Readers,

I read this piece morning and I thought of you.

Many of you have mentioned the same kinds of things this post talks about and while it doesn’t give any answers, I thought it would be good for many of you to know, you are not alone. My thoughts remain unchanged, I think if we as pastors could rely on the Holy Spirit more in services many church goers would not be waiting for “something amazing to happen.” With that said, take a minute and read this wonderfully honest post from Shawn Smucker over at Deeper Story. Let me know what you think in the comments section below.

Once last thing, my e-booklet Confessions of a Modern Pastor will be FREE on Amazon this weekend! If you are willing to get the word out on twitter, facebook or ANYWHERE , I would be grateful!

Unmet Expectations and How I Met Your Mother Finale

Unknown, copyright has been released into public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Unknown, copyright has been released into public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

They lined the roads watching. Many with tears in their eyes as they witnessed the long awaited Messiah, the King approaching Jerusalem. He rode in, as every king should and the crowds threw their coats on the ground ahead of Him. But wait, He was riding on the colt of a donkey? Many may have seen this but they did not understand. If a king is going to war, he would ride in on a horse, but Jesus was a donkey. A donkey means peace. Most shrugged it off. No matter, they thought He is the King and will be the one to free us. As Jesus approaches Jerusalem, Jesus begins to tear up himself. He sees they don’t understand what He is trying to tell them. They don’t realize that He is coming in peace. Their freedom will not be bought on the battlefield but by a selfless action. The peace He will provide them has nothing to do with politics and everything to do with spirituality. This peace is hidden to their understanding. Over the course of the week, the realization will begin to dawn on people that Jesus will not be doing what they expected him to do. Soon their joy turns into anger.

In what must be the quickest downward slide in popularity EVER, the same people who yelled, “Bless the King who comes in the name of the Lord” are now yelling, “Crucify him!” Over my years serving as a pastor, I have heard so many say “How could they have turned on Jesus?” The thought is assumed that if we were there things would have been different, because we would never had turned on Him. But I beg to differ. This particular group of people had waited years for someone to come and free them from Roman rule. Finally Jesus comes, performs miracles only the true Messiah could have performed (raising the dead) and speaks of changes to come. So they believed. They began to be hopeful. They may have pictured the battles to come and the freedom in which they will live. And while Jesus never lied, they misunderstood that the battle was with hell and the victory was eternal life, not a free nation. So should I really believe that with this much on the line, I wouldn’t also be angered when it didn’t go down the way I imagined?

If you still don’t believe me, I offer you another, more frivolous example.

A few weeks ago, the series finale of How I Met Your Mother aired to a frenzied audience ready to say goodbye to the wonderful characters they had grown to love with the knowledge that they will live happily ever after. And they did, just not with whom fans assumed (desperately dancing around spoilers here.) Within an hour, my twitter feed was lit up with angry tweets concerning how the show ended. People ranted, outraged blogs were posted decrying the unfair way the show ended and how more was owed to loyal fans. Show creators had to defend their actions and were in a sense “crucified” for an artistic decision. It was utter outrage and yet there was nothing really personally on the line for fans. They simply did not get what they expected.

You see we all could have been there yelling, “Crucify Him!” And there are times when we do, even now get angry when we don’t get what we expected from God. So we should not read this story and file it under “Things I wouldn’t have done” but put ourselves there and really wonder what we would have done. Would we have stayed faithful to Jesus like John and many of the female followers of Jesus? Would we have run away like rest of the disciples? Or would we have been angry enough to shout for His death then turn away in disgust?

This Resurrection Day, take some time and go through what you expect of God. Be brave enough to

let Him take any incorrect expectations away allowing you to stand firm on those that remain.

How do you deal with unmet expectations?