Sunday, May 1, 2016


   I've seen it before. That crazed look in a man's eyes when he doesn't get his way. Feeling grossly misunderstood. Realizing he's loosing this battle. "Well not this time," he must have thought last Thursday afternoon. "I'm not losing this one." As human nature would dictate, most of us have disagreements with our bosses and coworkers from time to time. Our supervisors are pressured from their own bosses to produce a certain kind of performance from us that can cause tension when communicated down the chain. Or maybe what we hear from them is more harsh than what was intended. So often our pride steps in, causing a reaction of fury. Many times though, it is the simplest misunderstanding that causes the largest frustration. And last week, within a few brief moments, that "crazy" in one fork-lift operator's eyes migrated down into his hands where he made a choice that would effect his future and the lives of almost 750 families throughout Illinois and Indiana. To release the fury within himself, he set fire to a packing slip inside The RoomPlace's 700,000+ square foot warehouse in Lombard, Illinois.

in reports, firefighters from 35 fire departments arrived to fight the blaze but had to retreat for their safety

  The 65 employees that were still at work made it out alive. In reports, firefighters from 35 fire departments arrived to fight the blaze but soon had to pull out for their own safety. 70+ million dollars of inventory, equipment, delivery trucks, and offices were destroyed.

70+ million dollars of inventory, equipment, delivery trucks, and offices were destroyed.

   While at dinner with friends, my phone began blowing up with the news. For the hours that followed, I found myself wondering how I was going to pay my mortgage and feed my children because it appeared that my livelihood just went up in smoke. My mind eventually went to my customers who were looking forward to receiving their furniture on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, next week, next month,... Selling furniture is fun for me. Helping a customers arrange their new space puts a smile on my face. Whether they are closing on their first home or redesigning an hold room, there is joy in being able to tell them, "Next week, you'll be sleeping comfortably on your new mattress!" or "Next month your place will be looking FRESH!" :)  But now my customers who are anticipating their mattresses and furniture on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, next week, next month… instead, they'll be receiving a call that their orders are being put on an indefinite hold. In this instant society, "indefinite hold" is not acceptable. And that's not what I had set my customers up for.

   As Friday came, I silently wondered why I was getting ready for work. Why go in? What can I sell? Inventory is gone and we have nothing to offer our customers. Then I had to remind myself of a conversation I'd just had with my teenage daughter. "God is the same God today as He was before the fire." It was time to rearrange my perspective. To date, I've many ups, downs, heartbreaks, and financial disappointments. But I don't believe that God has ever looked on my life and said "oops" or "uh-oh". As soon as I allow outside circumstances to dictate my faith, I begin to crumble. No, Donna. Don't do this! KNOW what's inside and LIVE BY IT. Stay the course. Be consistent. Don't crumble.

   So I went to work. The atmosphere throughout the weekend was strange… lots of questions and, admitedly, a little bit of trepidation. We received frequent and transparent emails from [CEO] Paul Adams,  [VP of Sales] Tim Adams, and  [Owner] Bruce Berman encouraging us to stay on course and not lose hope. "We will take care of you," they promised us.

   Questions about pay loomed over our heads. A meeting with the insurance company was scheduled for Sunday. It would probably be another day, at least, before we would know any specifics about our individual paychecks. My personal thoughts were that most sales associates would probably be laid off for a certain amount of time until things were built back up enough to operate normally again. I could see insurance covering payroll for the hourly and salary employees, but for us, the straight-commision sales assocaites??? I couldn't imagine it.

   On Monday evening, we were given the news that The RoomPlace ruled to pay their straight-commission employees the average of what we had been bringing home for the past 52 weeks.This paycheck structure would continue until orders and deliveries are flowing smoothly again. Basically, we will be living on the same pay as we'd been accustomed to for the past year! This didn't come from the insurance company but from Mr. Berman himself. And he was not going to wait for the insurance company to provide the funds. (Thank you, Mr. Berman. You cannot know how appreciative we are and how much compassion we've been feeling by you.) That man didn't miss a beat. The promised money showed up THIS WEEK ALREADY on our checks!
one of several emails reminding us to keep going strong
   Now here I sit on Sunday, May 1, 2016. Only 10 days after the fire. We already have MULTIPLE new warehouses signed for and in the process of being restocked. Manufacturers began expediting replacement inventory to our company within only a couple days of the fire. Last weekend, we had competitors requesting that the manufacturers give The RoomPlace priority to rebuild. How awesome are human beings during a time like this?!
one of our new warehouses #wegotthis
   New warehouses have already been secured. Inventory is coming in. Delivery trucks are already en-route. And business is quickly building back up. AND IT'S ONLY BEEN TEN DAYS. Crazy amazing. You were right, The RoomPlace. WE GOT THIS.

our store 21 team
Greenwood, Indiana

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Discussing Racism

I came across the following discussion this weekend and I think it's worth re-posting.

NewsOne: Discussing Racism

The first speaker on the panel (Pastor Cummins) says that we are not battling racism but that our country's social issues are really just moral. Jim Wallace (speaker #2) argues that the big issues at hand are indeed that of racism. MY BELIEF is that we DO have a severe discrimination problem in our nation, but the ROOT of that issue is moral decline. We have churches right here in Indiana -not more than 45 minutes from my home- that teach that the black race is cursed. If CHURCHES are teaching this moral corruptness, then of course there will be racism!!! And now because of the years of hatred from white people toward black people, we are experiencing intense reverse bigotry. No longer is the issue plain and simple "whites don't like blacks" Now the issues have increased with black bigotry against the white community. Our white culture has filtered hatred into our black communities for so long, causing them to despise us. God help us.

I came across another gem this week. Timely, I believe. This one was produced by Bill Gothard's organization. Wolves in sheep's clothing. I can't believe I ever listened to a word this man spoke. As you read these words, you can just feel the smug, outrageously cruel evil oozing out of his thick mask of syrupy spiritual goodness:  How the Civil War Could Have Been Avoided

***I've used the above link to jump to the webpage so that undue credibility is not sent to IBLP, an organization that I have zero respect for.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

missing pieces, expectation, and anticipation

I have this terribly annoying habit. And I'm sorry to say that people closest to me have probably witnessed it more than a few times.

As I was putting a puzzle together this week, an analogy hit me. Can you see that tiny little clothes line in the middle of the picture behind the corner of the barn? That piece there...well,  it really got me.  I became quickly convinced that it probably didn't even exist. The missing piece clearly wasn't on the table, so after searching under the table and all over the floor, I was sure the puzzle company left it out of the box. Well, dang. I was jipped! After silently whining over the missing puzzle piece for some time, I looked down and discovered it right there with a group of other peices in plain sight. {ahem.cough.}
This scenerio occurs many times in real life as well. OFTEN, actually. I place expectations on people or situations around me. At times, my expectations are even unreasonable. When something doesn't happen as fast or as easily as I expect, I assume that my situation must be broken or missing which leaves me in an internal panic. But if I could just sit back. And breathe. And trust. And take my hands off the table for a while,... then I might discover that all the pieces are truly there ~just waiting to be discovered in good time.
A couple weeks ago, my pastor talked about setting expectations on other human beings versus anticipating the promises of God. (podcast here
"expectations is the root of heartache"
But the things promised to me by God will not leave me heartbroken. Simeon was the old gentleman in Luke 2 who was given a promise by the Spirit of God. The promise was that he would be able to see Jesus, the Messiah, before he died. I can only imagine that as each year passed, he wondered if he was being let down. Or would God really pull through for him? Would this anticipated event truly ever happen? How long would he have to wait? I wonder if he scrambled around, looking for a reason to complain that he had been jipped? I guess that's what I would have done. I do have much to learn...

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

it's time to doubt your doubts

"When it seems that you have all the right questions but never enough answers..."

"I'm not telling you to have a blind faith, but to consider the blind men who believed."

"Before you doubt Me, doubt your doubts...
they are just as empty as the tomb that I walked from."

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Another look at the 'legacy' of Bill Gothard and Michael Pearl...

Here they are again! Wolves in sheep's clothing. Kudos to Kristiana for speaking on behalf of a generation of Gothard alumni in this interview with Chris Shelton.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

forward with passion

My personal belief is that God the Creator is the One Who connects the dots for us...
Watch this video.
The past 4 years has been full of tests, trials, and broken-heartedness. Life's circumstances has knocked me down, mocked my faith, and engulfed me in so much sadness that I wasn't sure of any hope. I've discovered that at the end of my feelings, there is nothing. I get caught up in my feelings -a human tendancy that runs strong through my viens. My emotions easily control me. If I let this happen, they will use me. I'm through with allowing my emotions to use and control me. God's design for me is bigger than all of this. I am coming back. I am taking full responsibility for my life. With drive and passion. The last chapter of my life has not yet been written.


Wednesday, November 18, 2015

come inside

"Take a seat, pull up a chair
forgive me for the disrepair
And the souvenirs from floor to ceiling
gathered on my search for meaning
And every closet's filled with clutter
messes yet to be discovered
I'm overwhelmed, I can't understand,
I can't make this place all that You can
Come inside this heart of mine
It's not my own make it home
Come and take this heart and make it
All Your own welcome
I took the space that You placed in me
And redecorated in shades of greed
And I made sure every door stayed locked
Every window blocked, and still You knocked
When You come inside this heart of mine
 it's not my own
Come and take this heart and make it
All Your own
welcome home, welcome home"


Sunday, May 3, 2015

just sitting here thinking...

I'm reminded of an article I wrote a few years ago. Sometimes I feel like all I have to offer is weeds. I guess we go through these stages of life. This one is not so fun. :(

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

living from the inside out

I quit writing a couple years ago as I stumbled under a weight of sadness and resignation. I lost the emotional energy -the will- to write, which caused me to lose my drive to continue thinking, searching, and growing internally. As the lights went out, my soul became vacant and somewhat cold. Cobwebs grew over the view from my window. It has been said that if you are not growing, you are dying. I certainly was not growing.

As one of my bosses began recently discussing a book he's been reading, I was brought to the stark realization that I had allowed an outside hurt to interrupt the development of my inner core. In "The Choice," Mr. Frank A. Thomas teaches on the development of our inner core... the inner essence of our personhood. I'm reading the book now myself and am being reminded that inside my own soul are powerful resources I cannot forget. When I allow life experiences to interrupt the development of my inner core, I've looked to fill what's missing on the inside with something on the outside...this is called living from the outside in. And it's backwards from how God created me. When I'm living from the outside in, I plague myself with questions such as, "Am I good enough?" or "Am I pretty enough?" or "Will they like me?" No core confidence. No trust in my own thoughts and feelings.

Ephesians 3: 14-19 (14) For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,[a] (15) from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, (16) that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, (17) that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, (18) may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— (19) to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Mr. Thomas points out that the word strengthened is opposite of the word discouraged. God will strengthen me at the depth... the very core... the center of my inner being. This results in being rooted and established in love. And living from the inside out.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Buyers Are Liars

"Buyers are liars." I feel like I hear that phrase almost every day at work. But I just don't get it. The idea is that when one goes out to make purchases or simply to browse for furniture, he will lie to either get you off his back or to get what he wants out of you.  And I really do see this a lot. But wouldn't this be a glimpse of who this man is rather than just a label placed on a man simply because he is buying something?

The guy who lies while buying furniture or checking into financing is the same guy who will lie to his child's school teacher or to the grocery store clerk or to his parents or spouse. He's not lying because he's buying. He's lying because he thinks no one in his life is worth telling the truth to. He's lying because he sees no value in honesty. He's lying because his world only revolves around himself. And, simply put... he's lying because he is a liar.

If I sound fed up, it's because I am. A customer walked in today to make a payment on his financing. While taking his payment, he indicated to me that his address had not changed. Before he left, he explained to me that the items he is financing with us needed some repair. As a part of our agreement, we provide repairs for our customers, so in completing the proper form for a technician to come out to his place, he said, "Oh, yeah... I do have a different address now. I keep forgetting that I moved." Liar. His world revolves around himself. He tells the truth only when it benefits himself. He's a liar. Not because he's a buyer. But because he's a liar. Plain and Simple.

\end rant.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Giving 100 Hours to Celebrate 100 Years

I just wanted to take a minute to point out one of the great retailers in our area. I am employed through RAC Acceptance which has a contract serving The RoomPlace. The location I work at is inside the southside location, near Greenwood.

In 1912, Sam Berman began selling furniture door-to-door. As time marched on, he opened one store after another. To date, there are over 20 locations throughout Illinois and Indiana. The RoomPlace was voted as one of the top 100 retailers in the United States by Furniture Today in 2011.

In celebration of 100 years of service, Mr. Robert Moore (General Manager of the southside location) and his team are volunteering 100 hours of their time -off the clock!!!- serving at downtown Indianapolis' Wheeler Mission Ministries.

In this day of self-centered motives, it's nice to see businesses giving to others in order to celebrate success.

My hat goes off to you. I feel blessed to be partnered with such a great group of people.

Monday, October 22, 2012


You said open your eyes and
I said I don't like surprises
You said surprise you're up to your knees in the water and don't have a life vest
I know, I know, I know
But don't worry I've got it figured out
You said jump in the boat man
I said no you reach your hand
You said the storms that will come will be more than enough and alone you can not win
You know, You know, You know
With out hope you'll only sink not swim

And the current here is stronger now than I remember and I'm crying for you to help, Please save me.

You said whatever happens
Don't get caught in the rapids
Hold on I’m over the edge and I’m reaching for help cause I
Im caught in the deep end
I know, I know, I know
What you said but I’m in over my head
You said that I’m not alone here
I said throw me a rope then
I've had more then enough of the rain and the cold and I wanna give up and
I know, I know, I know
With out hope I'll only sink not swim

When I feel like I am drifting away
Sinking down, the sands are shifting today
I'm about to loose my way
You Anchor, Anchor me down
Looking out the skies are turning to grey
All around the tide is pulling away
Just about to loose my way
You Anchor, Anchor me down
~Satellites & Sirens

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Failing Formulas

We hear lots of testimonials. Stories of rags to riches in business,  anecdotes of financial failures to success, testimonies of spiritual conversions from a life of destructive behavior toward healthy living,.... I think my story (so far) might fall under the category of "failing formulas."

Sounds bland enough. But, in my world, it's huge.

For 23 years I lived as though there was a formula for everything: "If you do A-B-C, the result will be X-Y-Z." If I followed the steps of 1-2-3, I'd have a successful education. If I do exactly these things, my marriage will be perfect. If I operate by a specific code of principles, my children will turn out right.  So I worked.  I obeyed the steps. I believed in the formulas. And I watched as others followed the same rules. But the principles failed me. The steps weren't infallible.  Heartache came regardless. And I watched as the formulas failed others.

In the following years, I gradually took a back seat to catch my breath and try to figure out the problem. I would be lying if I said I wasn't tempted to blame God. After all, the formulas I was taught... the principles I believed in... the code of conduct I followed... they were from Him. Weren't they? They were the rules I was taught at church. They were the thou shalt's and shall not's I thought I saw in the Bible. Weren't they direct promises from God? So... did He fail me? Or did the church fail me? Or was I simply misled? I'd operated under the principles of A-B-C. But X-Y-Z didn't happen. Why not? Maybe God didn't fail me. Maybe I just didn't try hard enough. Is that it? These were the questions that floated around in my head for some time. Years actually.

Then one day I learned a phenomenal concept: It's not about me at all. I spent years focusing on myself and how I could please God enough to gain some reward. I lived so long thinking that His pleasure or displeasure in  me was measured by a positive or negative outcome. I spent a lot of time thinking so little of myself that I was trying, trying, trying to follow a formula to get somewhere with God. I know it sounds like a paradox: focused on myself and yet thinking so little of myself. But the crux of the matter is this: I'd misunderstood God. I didn't realize that He was the only  doer that mattered. Furthermore, I didn't realize that His doing is what made me already complete. So all I needed to do was to BE. God made the world. He created mankind. He did His thing. And He continues to do His thing. He doesn't need me. But He welcomes me to fall into step with what He's already doing. He wants me to just be.

I can easily wrap my mind around a 5-step process toward success. Just tell me what to do. Give me a formula.   I can follow a religious structure. I can do church. I did that for years. I can do a style of clothing. I did it for years. I can do a brand of speech. All the right words and ism's... Again, I did it for years. I can do a formula in hopes of promised success. That's how I think. It makes so much sense to me.

Aren't many of us like this? We want to control instead of trust. We don't take a step unless we can see where we're going. We follow neat little formulas while saying, "this will keep me safe." It's taken me years to embrace that God is already doing His thing. And to trust that God is God and that He is the Doer and that all I have to do is to be. Yeah, this is tough. And liberating. And exciting. And scary. It takes an awful lot of faith. And letting go. Just to be.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

I read this quote on facebook a few times recently and so now I have it on a post-it note on my desk at work to remind me what matters. I have no idea who to contribute this to. I suppose google would tell me if I looked it up....

"Be more concerned with your character than with your reputation,
because your character is what you really are
while your reputation is merely what others think you are."

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Serving Leader

So I just finished reading a fantastic book called The Serving Leader. This is unlike any business book I've read to date. The writer labels the technique of a servant leader as a paradox.  It's an anti dog-eat-dog culture. A servant leader is not concerned about his own persona of excellence and he habitually gives credit to others. The servant leader realizes that he qualifies to be first by putting other people first. He protects his own value by giving it all away.

I started working with this new company a little over a month ago called RAC Acceptance. The atmosphere I have experienced with them is one that has been completely foreign to me. It's energizing and positive and the management displays a sincere desire to see their employees thrive and succeed. I've been impressed although I haven't been able to quite put my finger on the driving force behind the unique personality of this business. Since the first day of my hire, I've made it known that I am gunning for a promotion toward managing my own site at the first available opportunity. I know this sounds like a "fat chance" situation (for anytime soon) since I only joined the company 6 weeks ago, but I do believe it is attainable. Soon. My district manager has been kind enough to come up with a developement plan for me in order to guide me toward my goal of management. And one of his assignments was to read The Serving Leader which he describes as the mascot book of RAC Acceptance. As I read the book, pieces mentally fell into place as I began to understand the guiding principles of my wonderful employer/s.

It's been humbling for me to rearrange the furniture in my brain so that I could comprehend this upside-down stradegy toward success. Typically, a management system portrait will demonstrate a pyramid with the big boss-man on top and the diligent little worker bees on the bottom. However, the authors of this Servant-Leader system draws an entirely different picture. The method taught here is "upending the pyramid". Turn the thing upside down as you check your ego at the door. The basic outline is as such:
  • Upend the pyramid. Always remember that you qualify to be first as your put other people first. You are in charge principally to charge-up others. *I am not in charge so much as I am committed to whatever causes my followers to get charged.* Charge others up. Again, get your ego out of the way so that you can build up others. This builds self-esteem in others which invests in their personal growth, resulting in success. This causes genuine, confident teamwork. And love.
  • Raise the bar.  Be picky. Choose and stick with high standards. Continually raise the bar in order to raise the expectations for performance. The biblical account of Jesus Christ and His 12 apostles is used to illustrate this point. Jesus had tons of followers, but He took a handful (12) to completely invest in, teach, and prepare them to do the same with others. To serve many, you first serve the few.  And it's about removing the obstacles of followers. Educating them. Executives and managers must become better teachers in order to drive the success of their employees. The more you teach people to not need you, the greater your value. Woah... I'm still thinking about that one. I'm removing my career hat for a minute and donning my mommy hat: "Teach them to not need me?" Hmmm... Okay, back on topic: To protect your value, you must give it away. "If you want to hang onto your value, give everything away that you have." And it's about the multiplication of excellence. Human nature is to try to live up to what is expected of you. "What kind of service is it to deny a person the challenge to become really terrific?... the best way to reach down to someone is to give them a challenging reason to reach up."
This must be done in balance, though. I know of an organization who takes pride in setting unattainable goals in order to force their employees to try hard enough that, although they didn't quite reach the company standard, they [allegedly] did better than they would have if given a slightly lower goal. The justification for this was "if I ask you to write 10 accounts and you only write 7 because it is impossible to write 10, this is wonderful because if I only ask you to write 7, you will probably only write 5 because it is human nature to operate this way." This defeating mentality really beats up the employees and keeps the morale at a low.
 "The best way to reach down to someone is to give them a challenging reason to reach up." Once again, I have to switch hats.... What if we treated each other this way in our everyday lives as well? What if the businessman treated the beggar this way? What if I treat my children this way? What if our church treated the needy this way? What if the government treated the under-educated, under-motivated this way? I wonder...? Okay, back on topic again.
  • Blaze the trail. Get to know the organization (or your family or your community -or whatever your object of focus might be) by making it your focal point of prayer. Yes, that's what I said. Prayer. A challenge given in the book is to pray daily for the focal organization. By targeting that organization with prayer, it will be natural to know every breath of the organization. Investigate its finer ins and outs. Get to know the company intimately.
  • Build on strengths. We've taken "personality" tests for work and "love-language" tests for our relationships and the "strengths" tests for ministry endeavors. These tests all show us one thing: We each have our own individual set of strengths and weaenesses. Rather than focusing on the weaknesses of others (and ourselves), focus on the strengths. Use the strengths to build on. And, in so doing, we need to adopt a fresh set of eyes. You can't build on strengths if all you see is weakness.

"Lone Star" is an oxymoron. If a star is alone, it can't shine.

  • Run to great purpose. I'm noting this last although it is illustrated as the foundation of the servant leader method. (Refer to the upended pyramid.) This is the glue that holds the entire system together. Serving leaders articulate a purpose so compelling that people are willing to run toward it. The story of Nehemiah in the Old Testament is used to illustrate how a senior executive encouraged his people toward greatness in order to complete the daunting task of rebuilding the walls and gates of the city of Jerusalem. Nehemiah knew the solution to his great purpose would require everyone's best strength. He brought everyone together one day after receiving his command and provided the people with a purpose and a challenge to restore Jerusalem to its former glory. He divided the work among families according to where they lived along the destroyed walls and then he "upended" the pyramid by investing in them, helping them to succeded at their great task. Soon, critics came out, threatening the workers. But Nehemiah offered physical and spiritual protection to keep them safe and successful. Nehemiah's work ended up a huge success because his workers ran with great purpose and this purpose had completely captured their hearts.
No, purpose isn't the final point. It's the first point. The purpose has to be bigger than the people involved... Self-interest is what drives most corporations. But it isn't really the answer that delivers and it isn't the answer that truly satisfies.

Like I said, I'm rearranging the furniture in my brain right now. I attended an assistant managers meeting last month -my first one- and the quesstion was asked, "What drives you? What motivates you?" My answer was "The potential to succeed, move up the ladder, and bring home more money." But now I realize I was looking at this thing upside down. Typical board room answers: "to get a promotion" and "to get a bigger salary" and " to win the boss's job"... those are empty, self-interest answers. The great purpose, though... This pulls the entire serving leader technique into focus: "Making a difference in others is the whole point in our lives. It is the great purpose that gives us everything we need to run the best race we can. In addition, my faith keeps me in mind of the fact that my life doesn't belong to me. My living needs to serve a purpose bigger than myself."
  1. bring great purpose to the table.
  2. turn your leadership into service to your workers.
  3. hold high expectations.
  4. make sure your team has what it needs in training and resources and clear running ground.
  5. maximize the strengths your have.
"Live [your purpose] out very personally, or set priciples in motion at a large corporate level. let it bring deep private meaning to your life and to your family, or let it produce great public value... Or, better yet, do both."

In conclusion, serving leadership requires deep humility and a willingness to pour yourself into the life of others. Allow yourself to be nurtured for a great purpose by something bigger than yourself. Also to note: We all have mistakes in our past. We all have those skeletons. But what we do with them is the issue. We are each faced with 3 choices:
  1. Pretend that everything is okay. This requires putting on a front for people. Acting. Or, simply making excuses for our meaningless lives. This is how you become a smaller person. Just remember that this choice causes you to be justified in your own mind, but useless to anyone else.
  2. Destroy yourself with lament and self-incrimination. (Boy, I've been there. And recently!) Thinking that you've wasted too much time and that there is no way to get back on track. No second chances. I believe this might be the common fundamental, crippling struggle for many of us.
  3. Ask to be forgiven. Own up to your mistakes. Then seize your future with all you've got.
Again, I say this was a great read! I have so many books on my "to read" list. So when I first checked this one out, I thought I'd rather be reading a book on say,... parenting. But now that I've read it, well... I kinda think I did. And relationships. And true christianity. And community. And loving others. And teamwork. And business management.

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Commitments Payoff

Check this out. My friend, Ryan wrote: Who wouldn’t want God’s best? But if you break it down, the practical steps to achieving this goal are manipulative. I’m convinced, looking back, that a number of the commitments I made during my time with IBLP were in direct response to this question. I may not have completely agreed with the proposed commitment, but when faced with the “don’t you want God’s best for your life” question, the only logical answer was, “of course.” What I failed to ask, however, was who was determining what constituted God’s best? And by what criteria was he deciding that? Read on for his story... God's Best: The "Commitments" Payoff

Sunday, July 10, 2011

My Stilts Are Too Short

I LIVED FOR YEARS under the teaching of a Bill Gothard, drinking in his false definition of grace, which brought me to the belief that to maintain favor with God, I needed to live by a particular set of “standards”.  Rather than learning to understand the heart of God (as in other relationships) we were taught to live a separated and sanctified life through numbered, step by step principles.  In 1996, I began, with baby steps, to question the validity of this teaching. As time went by, I realized more and more the many fallacies that had been shaping my understanding of God. To gain a sampling of how I used to think, read this passage from Ephesians 2 from my prior perspective: “For by ‘the desire and the power to do God’s will’ you have been saved through faith,…” Now read it from my present-day perspective (and the teaching true to the text): “For by ‘unmerited favor’ you have been saved through faith,…” (and the passage continues with “… and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”) In my mind, salvation had become a matter of behavior rather than simply God’s free gift.  Up to that point, my understanding of sanctification was based upon a list of standards that could promote me to God’s favor rather than what GOD had already done for me. This philosophy led me to a place of disillusionment, frustration, and almost a feeling of spiritual death.
Imagine living on figurative stilts day after day in order to reach favor with God. When the stilts became wobbly, I feared God’s discipline or disappointment in me. When the stilts were stable and progressively getting taller, I became comfortable in my relationship with God while looking down at the others around me who had not yet figured out how to reach this high. I learned to depend on the stability of my tall, impressive stilts rather than naked trust on the simple favor of a Heavenly Father.
During these past 15 years, my understanding of God has been progressing slowly.  This year, though, I’ve found myself aggressively attacking the lies I’d previously bought into in order to gain healing and to grow my relationship with God. I’ve read, researched, and studied everything I can get my hands on in order to understand what grace really is and how the truth of it can transform my perception of sanctification and purpose.
THEN CAME LAST WEEK. A sensation of conflict began to hover over me like an oppressive cloud. A reoccurring burden of guilt that I had worked for years to either forget or make up for has reared its ugly head at me as though it were all new again. This weight is over an incident that happened over 14 years ago. Someone I love was hurt -possibly damaged for life- because I made a wrong decision. I can give a thousand excuses as to why it ultimately wasn’t my fault, but the fact remains… I was guilty. I’ve done my best to “make it right” and I have continually tried to figure out how to erase the painful memories and to make up for what happened. For years, I’d been figuratively building my personal Tower of Babel (Genesis 11) to reach that place where I can FEEL better and the weight of guilt can be lifted from me. But the focus on grace that my life has kind-of opened my entire life, clear and barefaced before me. And it took me back to that dark place of regret all over again. It’s almost like a deep cut that had almost, kind-of scarred over. But now that I am faced with the truth of GRACE, the scab has been peeled off –along with a whole additional layer of skin! And it hurts! My heart was LITERALLY HURTING. I was faced with the final realization that I have to quit building this tower to a place of FEELING better and trying, trying, TRYING to make it right. And when I say “make it right”, I don’t mean apologize. I already did that. I mean,… reverse time almost. Make it as though it never happened.

There's a girl in the corner
With tear stains on her eyes
From the places she's wandered
And the shame she can't hide

She says, "How did I get here?
I'm not who I once was.
And I'm crippled by the fear
That I've fallen too far to love"

But don't you know who you are,
What's been done for you?
Yeah don't you know who you are?

You are more than the choices that you've made,
You are more than the sum of your past mistakes,
You are more than the problems you create,
You've been remade.

Well she tries to believe it
That she's been given new life
But she can't shake the feeling
That it's not true tonight

She knows all the answers
And she's rehearsed all the lines
And so she'll try to do better
But then she's too weak to try

But don't you know who you are?

You are more than the choices that you've made,
You are more than the sum of your past mistakes,
You are more than the problems you create,
You've been remade.

'Cause this is not about what you've done,
But what's been done for you.

This is not about where you've been,
But where your brokenness brings you to

This is not about what you feel,
But what He felt to forgive you,

And what He felt to make you loved.

You are more than the choices that you've made,
You are more than the sum of your past mistakes,
You are more than the problems you create,
You've been remade.
(10th Avenue North)

SO THEN I REALIZED: God already did that! It took me a few days, but it occurred to me that I spent all these years trying to make up for or erase this terrible thing, the awful memory of who I once was and the devastating choices I made… but God has already erased it. He made it as though it never happened. I’ve been hanging on to this thing, unable to acknowledge that God is bigger. He is larger than ANYthing I have done. His grace is all-sufficient. And the more I try to make penance for my guilt, the guiltier I will feel because there is no way my stilts will ever be that tall! I can build and build and work and work and try and try but I will never get my tower tall enough to reach a not-guilty verdict. Like many times before, I had taken my eyes off God and His grace and placed it on myself and my little hamster wheel of spinning round and round but staying in the same guilt-filled rut. My husband told me last week as I explained to him my pain, “Donna, all I know is that you sound like a self-martyr. God already told you He is enough. You’ve learned how His grace can work in the other areas of your life. But you’re trying to take the weight of this one thing that you’ll never be able to get over without just LETTING GO of it.” The problem with this is that I have this tiny little haunting thought in the back of my mind: God’s well of grace SURELY must have a bottom to it. If we cash in too many checks, sooner or later, one is going to bounce, right?” I guess after all that I’ve been discovering lately, I felt like this one dark room in my life was just a little too much and I might overdraw on grace somehow. ???
I'd like to end this post with a clip from Les Miserables.
If you're not so sure why I'm in love with the reality of grace,
Come take a look...

My chains are gone
I've been set free
My God, my Savior has ransomed me
And like a flood His mercy rains
Unending love, Amazing


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Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Control Freaks and Mean People: Where Do They Come From?

Mark 4:35-41 On the same day, when evening had come, He said to them, “Let us cross over to the other side.”  Now when they had left the multitude, they took Him along in the boat as He was. And other little boats were also with Him.  And a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling.  But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm. But He said to them, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” And they feared exceedingly, and said to one another, “Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!?”

So, in the middle of a fierce storm, the disciples were overcome with fear. As is common with us when we’re afraid, they began to doubt the character of Jesus. They questioned him with, “do you not care?”
I know there’ve been times during my own storms when I’ve wondered if God’s eyes could be closed. And it’s during those moments that you can turn into a control freak with feelings like, “DO something about this… fix it!” We grab onto some kind of component we can control (kids, housekeeping, diet,…) and we become irritable and mean as we become more and more insecure. The fangs come out. The growling begins.
Jesus held an incredible track record. He’d already healed the sick, cast out demons, and taught some amazing truths. (See Matthew 4:23, 8:3, 13; 8:16) But fear dulls our memory. How quickly we forget the love and power of our King Jesus.
I read somewhere one day that when fear consumes us, then safety becomes our god.  That really hit home with me.  And as I thought about it further, I realized that not only that, but our personality is tainted with timidity and a lack of confidence or irritation, grumpiness, and bursts of anger.

John 14:1 Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Faith versus Formulas

"God doesn't seem to like formulas. Because formula is the opposite of faith. Formula says "I will follow a God that I've put neatly in a box, to give me the desired results". Faith says "I will follow You even when I can't see where I'm going, even when the world is collapsing around me". Formula says "I will not risk, I will be in control of my future". Faith says "I will risk everything, I will trust Whom I cannot see, surrender what I cannot control anyway." Formula is the assurance of things planned for, the conviction of things seen. Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen (Heb. 11:1). But we are afraid. So we control instead of trust. We don't take a step unless we can see where we're going. We build neat little formulas and say "THIS will keep me safe!" Then we blame God when our puny formulas fail."