Clergy Wives' Corner

A Chair Story

The Chair Story

As with a lot of our sister churches in the CEC, the history of Christ the Redeemer Parish in Canton has led us through numerous locations.  We’ve met in a living room, a Funeral Home Chapel, 27 acres in the Cherokee County countryside, borrowed chapels and sanctuaries in several churches, a renovated house – the list goes on.  Since June of 2008, we’ve been sharing a facility with All Points Community Church in Canton / Hickory Flat, and we’re very grateful for their hospitality. We meet on Saturday nights at 5:30, and that’s been an adjustment for those of us who grew up in a traditional Sunday morning worship setting.  For many of us, our prayer and desire has been for our congregation to be back in our own building, and to be able to leave a building to the next generation debt-free.  Sometimes that dream seems pretty far away.

We are very grateful for All Points, as they have opened their building and their generosity to us.  The little sanctuary is large enough for us, and there is a children’s church / nursery room that works beautifully for our kids.  The only thing any of us have difficulty with are the chairs in the sanctuary – they aren’t the most comfortable in the world.  They are very functional, blue plastic chairs, like what you’d find in a school or public facility.  Yes, we’re grateful, but those chairs can be a challenge at the end of a long week.

The last week of July, one of our members, Evelyn Allen, was on Facebook, and an ad popped up on the page she was looking at.  It said  “Church chair sale – 60% off retail, chairs $24”.  Evelyn sent the link to Deacon Justin and said, “Wouldn’t it be cool to get nice comfortable chairs at a good price for our new building?”  She even offered to store the chairs in her garage and park outside if she needed to so we’d have them when we do have a permanent location.

Deacon Justin checked out the link, and liked what he saw.  Fr. Stephen was on vacation, so he forwarded the link to Fr. Stephen, and left him a voice mail message about the chairs.  With further investigation, we found out that the chairs were for sale by Summit Seating, a company based in Canton, Georgia!  Facebook ads can be pretty random – you see something once and may never see it again.  When we mapped the address online, and found out the company’s headquarters is in Holly Springs, GA – 5 minutes from our home.  Within a few minutes, Deacon Justin spoke with the lady at Summit Seating, and had an appointment to go see the chairs the next week, once they were received at Summit’s warehouse.

As we continued to talk about this amazing opportunity, it occurred to me:  It’s always been clear that God has provided a place for Christ the Redeemer to meet.  No matter how unconventional or non-traditional it might be, we’ve always had a place to meet.  And for many of us in the congregation, God has given us dreams and shown us repeatedly that we will have a place provided for us.  For some of us, we’ve had dreams of a consecration service for a building that we own, like the service outlined in the Book of Common Prayer. 

That promise hasn’t changed, and neither has God’s provision for us.  But he knows that our desire is to move back into our own building with no debt and move our services back to Sunday mornings.  I believe that is going to happen – God will do that when the timing is right in His plan.  But for me, there are times when I feel certain God is going to do something but the waiting is just not fun.  It’s easy for doubt to creep in and make me wonder if it’s ever going to happen.

What occurred to me is that maybe these chairs are a way of God telling us as a congregation, “Don’t worry.  I haven’t missed your prayers about owning a property and moving back to Sundays.  I haven’t forgotten you.  I know the desires you have for Christ the Redeemer.  These chairs are a sign that I am moving, and setting the right things in motion to get you there.  There will be a property, and you will have what you need to equip that property – just know that we’re headed that way, and it will come.”  What a comforting thought that God knows we doubt, we lose heart, and yet he knows to support us and reassure us that his word is truth and he doesn’t forget.

On Thursday, August 5th, Deacon Justin met one of the representatives of Summit Seating at their facility in Holly Springs, GA, and bought 100 of the new chairs.  He had an opportunity to tell her about who we were and hear a little bit about her company as well.  The new chairs are going to be picked up this week, and stored in Evelyn’s garage until they are needed.

I was driving to work on Friday morning, August 6th, and ended up in traffic next to a truck – “Advantage Church and School Furniture” in Marietta GA.  So what was that all about?  Late that afternoon, I found their website, and their business is mostly selling chairs, tables and nursery furniture.  I looked at their chair selection, and found the chairs we bought, listed for $70 each!  I also saw they had a sale section – and the blue chairs we sit in at All Points were shown.  They’re on sale for $27, $3 more per chair than what we just paid for the really comfortable ones!  God’s provision in action for us once again, as we continue to be good stewards of the money we’ve been blessed with.

Late that same night, as my family was returning home from a birthday dinner for Evelyn, I was telling her the story about the furniture truck.  We saw a beautiful rainbow, and I asked my daughter, Madelyn, what a rainbow meant.  She said “That God loves us!”  Funny how the rainbow showed up just as Evelyn and I were talking about the whole chair thing.

Saturday evening the 7th, Deacon Justin shared this story with our congregation, and he reminded us of one other thing:  God doesn’t always do things in the order that we expect.  You’d think that the whole idea of getting a property and getting it equipped for services would go in order of getting the property first, and then getting the items for it.  In this case, God provided the chairs first, and the property will come later.  So at Christ the Redeemer, we’re still believing God’s promise to us and trusting his provision.  And looking forward to the day we are able to hold that consecration service in a new location!

Confessions of a Christmas-aholic

Confessions of a Christmas-aholic….

Alright already. I confess. I have a problem. I am a Christmas-aholic. I get completely obsessed with the time period between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and I love it. I don’t struggle with my addiction. I embrace it openly.

I’m not sure exactly how it happened. My mother very simply believed that the Christmas tree went up the day after Thanksgiving – it was just what you did. It then came down the day after Christmas, no questions asked. We had an artificial tree which allowed the month-long enjoyment of the tree. I even vaguely remember a time period when Mom and Dad had one of those 60’s silver aluminum trees and a color wheel that shined on it. By the time I was in grade school, however, it had been passed to my Mom’s parents and we had a green artificial tree. 

Each year, I can remember my father getting out the boxes of lights and starting the process. As a civil engineer, he would have had Mom put the light strands back in the original boxes on their little plastic holders. How she ever had the patience to do that, I have no clue. And back then, if one light went out, the whole strand went out. Seems Mom and Dad would end up spending hours on the lights, and I would get bored and go find something else to do until that was resolved. I remember the first year as an adult when Mom and Dad saw my first pre-lit tree. My father looked at me, handed me a credit card, and said, “go buy one of those, and then you can haul that old tree of ours and those lights to the dump.” He was a practical man, to say the least.

In middle school, my mother bought two four foot artificial trees for us – one for me, and one for my brother. They were put up in our rooms, and we started collecting Christmas ornaments for those trees. Mom’s theory was that we needed our own collection of ornaments so that when we left home, we’d have the basis of Christmas decorations. That was Mom’s limit – the large tree in the living room, and two smaller trees in our rooms. Of course, there was the wreath on the front door, stockings hung on the desk (since we had no fireplace) and lights on the shrubbery around the front door. They were the big, glass bulb lights – the 3” variety. You don’t see those any more, and that’s probably because they were bright enough to distract passing planes in the night sky.

By the time I had my own home, my addiction was starting to grow. I loved collecting Christmas ornaments, Santa Claus figures, whatever I could use to decorate with. I developed theme trees – one that had nothing but dog ornaments, including a white poodle angel for the top of the tree, one that displayed my collection of Wedgwood ornaments, collected during the time I worked for the company in Europe, a miniature tree with tiny little Hallmark ornaments. I had multiple wreaths, sprays and garlands that I used throughout the house. I’d pour over the Southern Living December magazine for new ideas on how to decorate for the holidays. And the collection of decorations grew. By this point, it probably could fill half a semi.

An old friend of mine shares this addiction to Christmas and decorating. She believes in the festive nature of the holidays, a time of hope, celebration and joy. We used to tease people who came to see her that you never wanted to sit still too long in her house around Christmas, or she was liable to drape garland over your shoulders and look for an outlet to plug in lights around you. Her favorite pastime was using fresh greenery and holly as decoration, and her neighbors all knew it. No holly bush in her neighborhood was safe from her pruning shears, and most of her neighbors knew she’d be looking for greenery each December, and would wait for her to do their pruning each year! I only hope she’s still setting the standard for decorating, as I don’t get to see her often any more.

So how bad is it now around our house?   Well, with two small kids at home, I don’t have the time to care for my addiction and go as far as I used to. Sadly, there are at least 5 totes of Christmas decorations in our storage room now that I am not using this year. (And when Justin reads this, I am so busted…) There are 4 small trees that are not out on display, either. Currently, we have our main tree in the family room (Madelyn says Daddy and Momma have to share the big tree), a small purple tree in Madelyn’s room (covered in Princess and Disney ornaments), a small blue tree in Seth’s room (covered in motorcycle, car and truck ornaments), a 4 foot tree in my office downstairs that displays my collection of White House Christmas ornaments collected over the last 19 years, a small tree of dog ornaments, and two miniature trees of Disney ornaments. Yes, that’s right, there are 7 trees in our house. The Santa collection is not out this year, due to a lack of display space in a house that has been overrun with toys. My collection of Christmas framed artwork is out, and they are old friends that I truly enjoy during this season. I added a lighted garland around the front door and down the porch steps, as well as wreaths on the front and back doors.

Yes, I admit I have a problem. I love the holidays, and I get way too carried away with all the activities, decorating, cooking, shopping and everything else that comes with the month of December. But what is the basis of Christmas? It isn’t all those things I listed, but a gift of love, of tremendous hope and joy. Hope that overcomes all that the world throws at us. The most amazing gift you could ever give or receive, and it is freely given – unconditional love that brings about a relationship between me and the God who created the universe. And the gift is there for anyone who’s interested. Wow.

So I go a little nuts each December. I get a little carried away with the anticipation, the celebration, the joy. I do too much, and have a blast every year. It’s an addiction, the looking forward to Christmas and the joy that it brings. And the joy of the deeper meaning of Christmas – the arrival of God’s son on earth, to bring about reconciliation and restoration of the relationship between God and man. I think that’s cause to be a little excited, a lot joyful, a little crazy.  And now, it’s time to stop writing – my daughter says we have more decorating to do. I am so proud...

Semper Gumby

(Over the years, I’ve become acquainted with a number of Marines, some of which are no longer on active duty or are serving in the Marine Corps. I’m going to ask their indulgence from the outset of this, simply because of the title of this little article. No offense is intended, nor anything less than complete respect implied when it come to those Marines, anyone who has ever served in our military and the Marine Corps motto, “Semper Fi!”, or “always faithful”.)

A former priest of mine used to use the phrase “Semper Gumby”. Some of us may remember a clay figure and his horse sidekick, Pokey from childhood television shows. In checking him out on the Internet, I find that The Gumby Show was a 233 episode show that spanned over 35 years. I just remember seeing Gumby and Pokey as a kid, and catching on quickly to how flexible Gumby was. Gumby dealt with various issues and situations in life, and remained flexible enough to get through it. After all, he was made of clay and could bend, move and do whatever to adapt.

I recently saw a sign at a car dealership that said, “Change is good. You go first.” And I relate all too well to that concept. Change is not a happy thing for most of us –in most cases, I change only through the process of gritted teeth or extreme kicking and screaming. In my office, one of my department’s responsibilities is getting a new customer up and running on our software. It’s not usually a happy process – none of us like having to change how we do things on a daily basis. In fact, there are times when one of our analysts will tell me, “it’s a go-live kicking and screaming”, and I know instantly the situation. I’d like to think I’m improving on that whole change thing as I age, but something tells me I still have a long way to go. I like my world running along, doing the same things, getting the same results. The repetitive course of life is comforting.

So “Gumby” gets translated into today’s vernacular as someone flexible, malleable, someone who adapts to change well. The phrase “Semper Gumby” then gets interpreted as “always flexible”. Being flexible and adaptive in daily life is a good thing. Let’s face it – how many days do you plan out what you’re going to accomplish, only to find that it’s the end of the day and you didn’t get anything done according to your plan? It happens to me all the time. I’m not saying don’t have a plan – not much in the world would get accomplished if we didn’t put forth effort or plan – but being married to a specific plan can really cause you trouble.

I once worked with a man who could not handle it when things in his workspace were not where they were supposed to be. I confess – I like having things in their place and a neat, orderly world for myself, but this guy took it much further. His workspace was organized to the point that he had a ruler that he used to measure the position of each item on his desk. As a practical joke, a co-worker of mine and I swapped things around on him one night when we worked late – everything on the right side of his desk was moved to the left side and everything on the left was moved to the right. The guy came in the next morning, and could not function until everything was measured and back to its proper place. It was almost an hour after he got to work before he could function. 

But I’ve learned something in the last several years. I am a pretty good scriptwriter, and I know how my life is supposed to play out. I write scripts in my head as to how things should go, what God should do, when He should do it, and how I think things just ought to be. And every so often, God lets it go that way. But I caught on here recently that when I write the script, I’m limiting God and what He can do. Sometimes he gets right into my face, so to speak, to remind me that He’s the one in charge, and He’s the one who is in control. And I’m also learning that in order to grow, you have to change. His ways are not my ways, no matter how much I want to think that I know best.

Now understand – I’m not talking about compromising on principles or truth. I’m talking about giving up my right to have to do something a certain way, just because it’s the way I want to do it. That same priest I mentioned also used to tell us that many time in life, “comfort is the enemy”. If I need to start eating healthier or exercising more, it isn’t going to feel comfortable. If I need to start standing for truth when I’ve been known for waffling or caving in, then that isn’t going to feel comfortable either. Let’s face it, though – feelings do not dictate truth. Truth comes from the Father, from scripture, from the church, the pillar of truth. 

So being flexible about my plan for my life’s details is a better concept than being so rigid about it having to be done my way. We may know beyond any shadow of any doubt what our destiny involves, but I’d be willing to bet money that we don’t know exactly how it is all going to look on a weekly, daily or hourly basis. We aren’t in control in this world, but we know who is. If we believe we’ve heard from God about something in life, run it up against scripture, pray about it, consult our authority for clarification. Give up the right to require God to accomplish things in a certain way. It sure does save me a lot of wasted energy when I remember to do that. 

Semper Gumby. Be flexible and allow God to move us in the direction He wants us to go. After all, “Semper Fi” may be the Marine Corps’ motto, but the one who is truly “Always Faithful” is our Heavenly Father. 
 

 

Telling Stories

Telling the Stories…

-December 2, 2009

I guess you could say I come from a family of storytellers. Anyone who knew my Dad personally, or any of his siblings, for that matter, knows that they love to talk and tell stories. We used to laugh whenever Dad would get on the phone with one of his sisters that he’d be on the phone and out of the living room for at least an hour. There was always much to say, many stories to tell and they made time to do that. It’s wise to plan time to talk to the three remaining siblings – you’ll be on the phone for a while. I even catch my brother and I doing that now when we find ourselves on the phone. Look for a comfortable chair, or get where there’s laundry to be folded, ‘cause you’re going to be on the phone for a while. 

But recently, there’s another truth about telling stories that I’m learning. And I believe it has to do with sharing the gospel, to be frank about it. You see, I believe that God has a plan and a destiny for each of our lives. He gives us the gifts and talents to accomplish his destiny, and calls them forth when they are necessary. I believe that he creates each of us specifically according to his purpose for our lives. Look at Psalm 139:13 – “For you created my inmost being: you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” Isaiah 44:24 says “This is what the LORD says— your Redeemer, who formed you in the womb.” So God put me together himself, with his plan in mind. He put together my specific personality traits and gifts just so I could do what he calls me to do. 

My husband has a phrase he says from time to time, “be who you are.” (He’s a man of few words sometimes – maybe that’s because he can’t get more words in around me? I digress…) What I think he means by that is, “be who God called you to be. Believe what God says about you – that you are his precious child, who is loved, wanted and accepted. Walk in who you are – don’t try to be something you’re not.” We go about our daily lives, working at a job, going to school, being who we are. The love of God is going to shine through. That’s a bit of a cliché, and I’ve been asked what that really means, in non-metaphoric terms. People see our faith, the love placed in us by the Father, in what we say, what we do, how we act.

I remember once a friend was watching me go through a rather difficult time. She said to me one day at lunch, “you’re not reacting the way you used to in certain situations. There’s something different about you now.” That difficult time was a stretching, growing period in my life where God was having me deal with some significant issues. Issues that had been holding me back in my walk. Was I intentionally acting different to be noticed? Not at all. However, I was realizing that I was in charge of my emotions, and that it was time to believe what God said about me, and not bend to every person who came along. I got the opportunity that day to tell the story to her about what God was doing in my life. She had known of my faith, but I think that was the first day I really shared a story with her about what God can accomplish, what he can call you out of. The love of God shined through in that moment and she realized something was different about me. And yet, we finished lunch, and went back to work together. No big moment that transformed our friendship or anything – just a conversation between friends.

And so I watch things that are going on around me at the moment, especially in our little congregation. Christ the Redeemer Charistmatic Episcopal Church is no huge congregation with a million dollar budget. There’s nothing wrong with being a member of a church like that, if that’s where you’re called to serve. We’re a small congregation at the moment – 30 people, on a good day. And yet, that little congregation is being used by God in some very unexpected places. We’ve helped sponsor a party for orphans in Bulgaria.  We’ve help sponsor a mission trip to Africa to help teach and establish prayer within churches in 5 African countries. We’re participating next week in a mission to Booneville, KY, the largest city in the third poorest county in the United States. In each case, we’ve worked alongside other parts of the body of Christ – other denominations and church congregations. I still think that is amazing.

All of these missions and projects have come about because of telling the story. Christians who simply told people about what God was doing in their lives, or how they were serving. They weren’t really standing on street corners or advertising in the paper, but one did send an open Email message through her Facebook account to get the word out about needing help for their Bulgarian orphanage trip. We’ve had amazing contributions and seen people get involved in the Appalachian Christmas mission, all because someone simply shared what was going on, what they were doing. I believe that’s just being who you are, whether it was at work, with family, at church, wherever.

In my opinion, I’d say that telling the story is simple evangelism. It’s sharing about what God has done or is doing in your life just in daily conversation and daily activities. So, I’d say we’re all called to be storytellers. I think Dad would be proud of that!

Being the Body

Some of you are familiar with my writing from Facebook or the Mid-South Diocese website.  Fr. Stephen asked me to begin posting them here for the congregation, too.  This one was written the third week of November, 2009.   -Luanne

It never ceases to amaze me how the older I get, the more that I believe or hold as truth gets challenged. Being challenged is a good thing – it causes you to think, to examine what you are doing or what you believe, it calls you out of old practices – but in some cases it can be a very difficult experience. Having to ask yourself “why do I believe what I believe?” or “why do I do what I do?” can point to things that need to be changed or put in order, and Lord knows, very few of us are fond of that change thing. I know I’m not! Saw a billboard in Roswell this week that says “Change is good. You go first.”

I grew up north of Marietta GA, going to elementary school in the 70’s and graduating from high school in the early 80’s. Cobb County was just beginning to hit the big time, as I-75 began to push traffic further north as it was completed moving on towards Tennessee. Seems like when I was in grade school, there were maybe 4 or 5 high schools in the county – there were more than double that by the time I got to high school. The county had a rural flavor to it when I was a child. I can remember fields where there are now shopping centers and subdivisions. 

And somehow, my parents found a church very close to downtown Marietta that became their church home. It was a Southern Baptist church, but was different than some of the Baptist churches in the area. I remember my father saying that our church wasn’t a “First Baptist Church” sort of congregation, whatever that means – it was rather small in comparison, and didn’t use the Baptist Hymnal or allow choir robes or all those other things that people associated with “First Baptist” churches of that time. A number of the families who attended our church had come from Cherokee County and from what was referred to as “Country Baptist-style” churches. Our church used the King James Version of the Bible, and sang traditional 4 part harmony gospel music. It was a church that grounded me in so many biblical truths, and so much of scripture that is in my memory today is a result of Sunday School teachers who worked with me. What a great heritage to come from!

In my childhood, I remember there being lots of Baptist and Methodist churches around. In fact, I can honestly remember when I met my first Catholic friend in 4th grade. I just assumed everyone up until that point was Baptist or Methodist! I remember the day my Methodist friend down the street showed me her baptismal gown when she was baptized as a baby, and I immediately came home asking questions of Mom. Somewhere, I just caught that everyone’s church was just like mine – it was Southern Baptist or not, but everyone’s service looked the same, everyone’s doctrine was the same, everyone worshipped the same. My 4th grade best friend rocked that idea even further. During that time, I remember reluctance on the part of many parents to allow their kids to visit their friends’ churches. I remember going to her service, and being really confused. Thankfully, her parents and mine answered a lot of questions during that time, and it was good for me to learn early in my childhood that there are other forms of worship, other parts of the body of Christ.

I’m no longer a member of the Southern Baptist denomination. When I left, I didn’t leave out of anger or disagreement – I was simply called to serve somewhere else. You see, I’ve realized that everyone’s journey, everyone’s walk with God is going to look different. We’re called to serve in different places, with differing gifts and talents, with worship services that look different from each other. It doesn’t mean mine is right and yours is wrong, or vice-versa for that matter, it just means it is different. There are some basics you have to agree on, but we are in different churches for a purpose. As children of God, we are called to serve wherever God places us – in the body of Christ. We are responsible as his children to become part of a local body, to serve and live in community with our Christian brothers and sisters. Let’s face it, folks – the world is a cold, hard, scary place. You want to be a Lone Ranger sort-of Christian and go it alone, and you’re going to get smacked around. I don’t believe that is what God expects us to do – he knows that we need each other, broken, bent and messed up, though we may be.

So the body of Christ looks different to me now than it did when I was a child. Back then, the body of Christ was those people who I went to church with, and not much of anyone else. And yet, I have been in worship services all over the world that look really different from what my weekly church service looks like, and yet, these are all members of the body – part of my family as the family of God. We’re all serving where we’re called to serve. Based on scripture, that’s as it should be. And there are times when we’re called to serve together to accomplish His purposes.

A couple of cases in point: Back in September, our little congregation of 25 people partnered with my nephew’s church on a missions project. Our Charismatic Episcopal Church congregation supported his Town View Baptist Church in a mission project to Bulgarian orphanages. He and his wife traveled to work with American missionaries in Bulgaria who have a heart for the orphans of that country. They went to a dozen government-run orphanages in Bulgaria, and spent a day with these kids. They took a Bible lesson, party food, goodie bags and played games. And our little church financially provided the goods for one of the party visits. Baptists and Charismatic Episcopalians doing the work of the Father together, sharing the gospel, showing the love of God. I like that.

Now, our congregation is partnering with over 20 churches in the Atlanta area in a mission project to Booneville, KY – Owlsley County, the third poorest county in the US. Before it is said and done, churches from all over the eastern half of the US will work with Praise Ministries International to share the love of God with the people of this county through meeting physical and material needs. And in working together, the body of Christ breaks through all the barriers – God puts a need in front of us that will take far more than just one congregation to meet. And I’m grateful that these congregations set aside any denominational differences and function as the body to accomplish a greater goal than they could reach on their own. Will we all return to our own churches and services after the mission is completed? Sure. We’re all on different journeys and the Father is taking us different routes. And yet, he works through all of us to accomplish his purposes and allow us to fulfill our destinies. I’d say that’s just the body of Christ being the body, with different gifts, talents and abilities placed in us to accomplish the work of the kingdom. I stand amazed at the Father’s plan and that he chose to work through us to reach others. How cool is that?


Gifts. Giftings. Presents.

Some of you are familiar with my writing from Facebook or the Mid-South Diocese website.  Fr. Stephen asked me to begin posting them here for the congregation, too.  This one was written the first week of November, 2009.   There is another article called "Redemption" that you may want to read first so this one makes more sense! It is listed below this article  -Luanne


There’s been another topic that I’ve been thinking a good bit about since I wrote the piece on Redemption. I believe they’ll tie together here, so humor me for a little bit and read on. (Thanks for reading, by the way.)

There is a thought among a lot of people that they can never say that they are good at something. Their position is that they are to always be humble, to serve, and to believe they have a talent or a gift would be prideful. Yes, I agree, that we can become prideful and put our gifts above God in our lives. But I don’t believe it is wrong to recognize gifts that God has placed in us. I know, and I have always known, that God places gifts and talents in us, in all of us. Those gifts are in us to accomplish his purposes and for us to walk in our destiny. I guess I was raised that way.

And until last weekend, I don’t think I could have given you a scripture from memory to back that up. Fr. Stephen has been walking us through I Peter, and last weekend, he went through I Peter 4:10. From the NKJV: “As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” As each one has received a gift. That means we all have one, and there are scriptures that back up the idea that we have more than one. This verse tells us to use the gifts we have, as good stewards, as a people who are grateful for those gifts, and show forth the glory of God. Wow. That’s cool! Everyone’s gifts are different, as the parts of the body are different. But to not acknowledge that we each have gifts is to argue with Scripture. Been there, done that, not a good position, let me tell you.

Case in point: I am an organizer, a multi-tasker, an administrator. It’s what I’m wired for. It’s what makes me successful as a project manager in my career.  While we joke about it in our house pretty regularly, I am not particularly gifted in compassion. I can operate in that area when I need to, but in a crisis, it’s not what I tend to do. It’s not what I tend towards on a daily basis, either. I tend to organize, solve problems, put things together – I don’t usually try to work with people in whatever the situation is to acknowledge or identify their feelings. I know that administration is one of my gifts, but if I try to take that gift and use the “organize, problem-solving” stuff in relationships in my personal life, I’m in a world of hurt. My personal life doesn’t need an administrator, and neither do my relationships!

At times I hear people joke that worry is one of their gifts. And I really hope they are joking. In my life, when I’m worrying, I’m usually not relying on the Father’s plan for my life. For the longest time, I always said that I didn’t have to worry about anything in my life – that my Mom covered all that for me. Now, I’m hopeful she didn’t worry that much about me, but I understand a little more about how it could get that way, now that I’m blessed with two children of my own. But I have to keep in mind a couple of truths: that God has his plan for my life, and for their lives, too. He has their best interests at heart for them to walk in what he has called them to do, and he has given them the gifts and talents they need to accomplish their destinies. Sometimes I can think about that for my kids before I’ll believe it for myself, but I’m one of the Father’s kids, too.

It is a fulfilling life when you know what your destiny is, what your purpose is, why you are here. It is also fulfilling to think that God cares enough about each of His children to bless them with gifts. So if you don’t know what they are, there are many ways to explore them. There are tests to help identify your spiritual gifts, your motivational gifts, and they can help bring life into focus. If you need help, ask your pastor, ask a trusted friend. Life is too short to miss out on any of what God has for us.

I’m reminded of a child opening an unexpected gift: it is such fun to watch the excitement as they rip into the paper and find the gift. The look of wonder as something so very special is opened. It’s fun to be the giver of that gift, too – to watch as the child realizes what they have. I have to believe that God feels that way about watching us recognize our gifts.

 


Redemption

Some of you are familiar with my writing from Facebook or the Mid-South Diocese website.  Fr. Stephen asked me to begin posting them here for the congregation, too.  This one was written the last week of October, 2009.    -Luanne

Redemption

There's been a recurring theme over the last year or so that I'm learning a lot about. Redemption. And maybe, it's been going on for much longer than that, and I just didn't catch it. I mean, for goodness' sake, I go to Christ the Redeemer Church, and have for over 9 1/2 years. Duh!

To redeem something, in my simplest terms, is to return something back to what it was intended to be, back to what God intended it to be. For example, I believe God blesses each and every one of his children with a number of gifts, and one of mine is tenacity. And those of you know me know how difficult it is for me to use this term, but "bulldoggedness" is what I'm thinking of here. (As a Georgia Tech fan, it's just hard to use that term, you know?) That ability to stick with something, to see it through, to continue to push forward because you know it's what you're supposed to be going after, a desire that God has placed within you, even when most people would give up. Tenacity is the gift, but stubbornness is how it gets bent by us and the world. Stubbornness is my refusal to give up and admit I was wrong, simply because I refuse to admit I could have made a mistake. Stubbornness is my inability to give up and go another direction, as the direction I'm going in could destroy me. Tenacity is the gift, but stubbornness is what many of us cling to because it lets me be right all the time. That's just wrong - I believe God gifts us with tenacity for specific purposes, because what he's called us to do is going to take the ability to push forward when it looks ridiculous. As long as we do that for his purpose, we're headed in the right direction.

So stubbornness is what results in me when I refuse to listen to His direction. And yet, the gift of tenacity is still there. It can be redeemed, and that's an act that God brings about in us. I think about a lot of things that have happened in my life - some roads that I have chosen to go down that I shouldn't and some roads that I ended up on because of circumstances beyond my control - and what God intended for good got bent, whacked out, turned around - you get the idea. When my first marriage ended, I couldn't even think that a man could have my best interests at heart. For so many reasons, I didn't trust and while I looked pretty confident, that confidence was a very thin veneer. It took God's healing, restoration and redemption for me to be ready to trust again. It took time, and me being willing to admit my part in where I was, and make the choices to forgive, to believe God's truth about myself and move into what he had for me.

So that brings up a thought - What happens to my gifts when I have royally screwed up? I've totally blown it, gone in the complete wrong direction, and maybe have done that for many years? That means the gifts are gone and done, right? Not according to scripture, anyways. Romans 11:29 states clearly that "for the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable". I think sometimes I believe I've fouled things up badly enough that I'm off the hook - that God could never use me again, and that well, I can just continue to go along on my merry way and not be accountable for my gifts. Nope. No "get out of jail free" card on that one. I'm still accountable for what he has placed in me- and it is there to be used for his purposes, whether I've lost the way or drove headfirst off a cliff. Uh oh.

Over this past year or so, I have seen redemption and restoration in relationships. And I guess it shouldn't be a surprise that the redeemed and restored relationships are more precious now, and also a little tougher - they don't get taken for granted and they take effort to maintain. This past Sunday afternoon, the "little Lyons" got together - the assorted cousins on my Dad's side of the family that have kids all about the same age. Dad's family wasn't the "get together for every possible event" sort of folks - but we always got together on the Saturday after Christmas. I've written before about how much I enjoy the fact that our kids are going to grow up together, knowing each other - and we are making an effort for that to happen. It is tough to get together - we're families with young kids with working parents, activities, commitments, church and all the other things that make up life. And yet, the concept of family is being redeemed.

And still, redemption continues to go on inside me, in how I see and think about life in general. I've seen the way I think about money and finances change and be redeemed. I've seen the way I approach and view marriage changed and redeemed. I've seen the way I view God change and be redeemed, too. Redemption is all about another chance, a fresh start, a do-over with God's direction moving me back to what he intended with a repentant heart, and a willingness to hear what he's telling me.

Life is good. God is faithful.