Who Are You?

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(this has been posted on both of my blog pages, here and http://www.marvimarti.com)

Who are you who claims to be a believer?

Who are you who claims to have the love of the Lord in your heart but turns your back on the unwed daughters in the church who are pregnant? Or the sons who drove drunk and now carry a DUI and are slipping from your grasp?  Those who have practiced unfaithfulness or have  stolen or any other “grievous” sin?

Who are you to think you know what is remorse or not remorse because they didn’t stand in front of the congregation to declare their sins?  Can you SEE that their heart is hard or see that deep inside them it is breaking under the weight of their sin and they NEED you to pull them to you not shove them away until they ‘repent’ as YOU feel they should?  Who are you to claim to know their heart?

Who is embracing those who grew up in the church but have wandered when you, their church “family” does not embrace them and support them? The world you preach so hard against?

Where is the love?

The love of Christ that dined with the sinners.

Are you really any different than the Pharisees who thought they knew it all and looked down or turned their back on God’s prodigal ones?

Did Jesus make the adulteress woman go before anyone except HIM to confess her sins when she was about to be stoned? or did He show her compassion and love, and encourage her to the path that leads to Him?

Who are you to judge the heart? I thought that was God’s to do?

Where oh where is the love????

Could one person who reached out and loved from the heart, showed the love of Christ rather than shunning the lost and fallen, have made the difference?

And the gossip..oh the juicy tales passed from person to person about that fallen one, did that not make you a sinner too? Isn’t the ground level in front of the cross of Christ?  Where was the compassion and love to reach out and catch those who stumbled and help get them on the path?  Instead the gossip, the shunning,  could that be what assisted them in falling off the path and in to the pit of sin rather than just stumbling?  You who have never been down that slope, have no idea how hard it is to reach out and cry for help, trying to claw your way back up, when the doors have been seemingly closed.  The humiliation carried by the sinner and being so lost under that weight that you cannot bring yourself to reach for a brother or sister…and you wonder, as they’ve talked about you  rather than help you, is their heart going to accept you and help you if you could bring yourself to their door in search of love?  And while you ‘shun’ them, the world reaches for them, loving them, soothing their wounds, wrapping around them until they have numbed from the still, small voice, and now feel the love and acceptance of the darkness because it DID reach for them, it DID care for them, it DID embrace them when the “christian family” did not.

Surely they who fell into sin will stand before God and be judged.  But you who turned a cold shoulder, who demanded repentance instead of showing love, who watched them fall into the embrace of the world rather than embrace them in the love of Christ, won’t you too be judged for how you dealt with them?  Do you really think you will hear “Well done, good and faithful servant” any more than the ones stumbling? YOU too sin every single day with your judging of others, with your gossip, with your less than loving hearts, with those little white lies you tell and other sins of omission…one’s sin may be more evident and glaring than another, but is it any less wrong? Any less a sin?

When you discovered a brother or sister was off the path and wadding in sin, did YOU do anything?  Did you run and tell another, dial the phone to share the nugget of naughtiness? Or did you run to the fellow believer and sinner and do all you could to bring them back on the path and be restored to their walk?  Did you really show LOVE, or just legalism?

Did you fawn all over the ones who joined the flock who could say all the right Christian buzz words, talked softly with a seemingly quiet and gentle spirit, served in so many ways….only to fall and then SWIM within that lake of sin.  Yet the ones who might be rough around the edges, struggled in their walk but their desire to please and worship Christ was there but you didn’t invite them to your home, or your circle of friends, you kept them at arms length when what they needed was your love and compassion.  And yet both those you put on the pedestal and those you saw beneath it, fell into sin…because we ALL are sinners, we all need Christ.

Where, brothers and sisters in Christ, is the LOVE?

Surely you’ve heard that phrase, “you may be the only Bible some folks ever read”.  What sets you apart from the world? OTHER than your haughtiness and carrying your Bible and being able to quote a scripture or two with a pat on the back and “I’ll pray for you”.  You jet off to serve in the “mission field” rebuilding churches in a place hit with a natural disaster, all the while people sitting around you every Sunday are starving to death on the pews in need of real LOVE.  I suppose it is easier to go help a stranger, drive some nails, clean up the damage to buildings, than it is to sit down and help someone you know find their way out of the damage in their life caused by sin.  To really connect and FEEL what they are feeling.

Sure, you can give a defense if your faith is questioned.  You can explain in great detail what scripture says about sin and the need of a Savior, and tell the date you came to Christ.  But can you defend YOUR faith, your heart?  Can you honestly say you have shown true love for the brethren, got down on your knees and held a shattered brother or sister to rise above their sin?  Did you talk TO them, or just talk ABOUT them?

These are the things I am struggling with this morning when I should be at services with people that I love, worshiping my Savior.  Not only do I know those who were shunned and talked about…but I was one who did the shunning, AND… I AM THAT SINNER THAT NEEDED YOU!  I fell off the path, slipping further and further away until I was out of reach and eating with the pigs in the pigsty rather than wrapped in LOVE from my brothers and sisters.  YES some was my own heart attitude, but short of listening then quoting scripture, who reached out? Who left their comfort zone to find out what was driving that attitude, and what was pulling from the other side of the path down the slippery slope?  I pray in the future I am willing to crawl down and grasp the hand of a fellow believer who has fallen into sin, to really SHOW the love I talk about having.

You warm a pew…but are you truly the remnant spoken of in the Bible?  Having been on both sides, I fear the remnant is far smaller than I once believed.

You say you love…but where is the love?

Who are you?

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My One Word – Narrowing It Down

myonewordI have participated in a growing movement to forget about New Year’s resolutions, and instead pick one word that will be the focus of my year.  The idea being that focusing on that area will bring about good things in all areas as it spreads.  I picked SEEK the year before last, then JOY this past year.  SEEK God was the focus, then finding the JOY in all things.

I was going about it just fine but this year decided to not only check out the website but to also read the book.  It has been a life changer already and it is only the 3rd of January.

My word was harder to pick, as there are so many areas of my life that need change, improvement or just to find a way out of the door of my life altogether.  The book has been very helpful in narrowing things down.  I was down to just 4 words, all of these words would have an impact on my life if they were chosen as my ONE WORD for 2013:

KNOW – as in really get to know my Savior through God’s Word in extensive study.

REFLECT – as in reflecting Christ in my life every day as if I am the mirror that reflects Him to the world around me.

APPLY – apply the Word of God in all areas of my life.

SURRENDER – as in yielding, surrendering all areas of my life to Christ.  While I do not care for the whole “WWJD”, maybe more in line of what would Christ have me to do.  Based on scripture and not my ‘gut’ feel.  And praying through things before making choices and decisions.  Surrender my thoughts, actions, Sunday mornings…everything to the Lord.  This word will encompass the others as time goes on, so it was the clear choice.

sur·ren·der

[suh-ren-der]

verb (used with object)

1. to yield (something) to the possession or power of another; deliver up possession of on demand or under duress: to surrender the fort to the enemy; to surrender the stolen goods to the police.

2. to give (oneself) up, as to the police.

3. to give (oneself) up to some influence, course, emotion, etc.: He surrendered himself to a life of hardship.

4. to give up, abandon, or relinquish (comfort, hope, etc.).

5. to yield or resign (an office, privilege, etc.) in favor of another.

verb (used without object)

6. to give oneself up, as into the power of another; submit or yield.

The word will be in front of me all year…taped to my dashboard, as my bookmark in my bible (maybe several as I’m all over in there), anywhere I might come across it or the need for it, I will have it in front of me to remind me to focus on that word and what it entails.  It will set the tone for my year, be at the heart of much of my writing for this blog this year, but more importantly it will help me to grow in my walk and faith with my Savior, Jesus Christ.

In addition, I’ve taken the “30 day challenge” I’ve heard on K-LOVE, and I am listening to only Christian music for this month.  Again, it is already impacting my thoughts and mood.  Guess that whole “garbage in (to the brain) = garbage out” could be true.  I catch myself  little more when using less than appropriate language, when a negative or unkind thought goes through my brain, etc.  The music and songs may lack sound theology, but they are positive and encouraging, as K-LOVE often uses as their slogan.

Peppermint Coffee Musings

Peppermint coffee.  Gotta love it.  And my diffuser filling the air in my room with soothing scents of pure lavender oil, and 31 oil.  Mind and heart full of good ‘food’ from church this morning, both the Sunday School lesson and the worship sermon were great.  I’m listening to Twila Paris’s album Perennial.  Some of my very favorite hymns on are there, like Be Thou My Vision and Amazing Grace.   Her voice is so beautiful.  And the words of the songs beyond  description for me at times.  Also listening to a beautiful CD of  music from Fernando Ortega, The Shadow Of Your Wings, it is one  my friend Janie gave me when I first returned to church 2 years ago.  I need to share with her how much that has meant over the past 2 years.  The songs and hymns on it are in somewhat different arrangements than what you might traditionally hear in church.  And they have helped me many times to quiet my spirit and prepare my heart to pray, read God’s Word, or head out to worship services.

The lesson this morning was really good and spoke to me in Sunday School.  One thing that stood out was that we need to be very careful what we desire, as we just might get it and all that goes with it, good and bad.  And that what we sow we reap, no question about that.  Some call it karma, or “what goes around, comes around”.  I prefer to stick with what I know as a believer, God handles vengeance.

Psalm 7:14-16

New Living Translation (NLT)

14 The wicked conceive evil;
    they are pregnant with trouble
    and give birth to lies.
15 They dig a deep pit to trap others,
    then fall into it themselves.
16 The trouble they make for others backfires on them.
    The violence they plan falls on their own heads.

That is one really good passage, and here was another:

Proverbs 5:21-23

New Living Translation (NLT)

21 For the Lord sees clearly what a man does,
    examining every path he takes.
22 An evil man is held captive by his own sins;
    they are ropes that catch and hold him.
23 He will die for lack of self-control;
    he will be lost because of his great foolishness.

Dave pointed out, that if you sow seeds of corn in a field, you will reap corn as that is what grows from corn seeds.  If you sow beans, likewise.  And if you sow trouble, you will reap that too.  Gossip, slander, unkindness, sin….sow those seeds and that is what you will reap in return.

The trouble  with seeds is they are tiny at first.  You drop a tiny seed no bigger than a corn kernel into the soil, and a full blown corn stalk grows up with many ears filled with many more kernels of corn.  Now, think about when you plow trouble and plant seeds of iniquity, like sow gossip seeds, seeds of strife, or other seeds that are not things that will reap blessings, they reap what was sown/planted, in abundance.  That tiny seed will grow into a large plant and produce far more than you bargained.  This happened in my past.  Yes, if you go to the search section of my blogs and search the word “swinger” or “lifestyle” you will get back several posts.  I make no pretense that this is somehow a secret, I was a swinger.  And I did photos that were not good, and my kids know.  My church family knows, my friends and family all know about it.   I don’t hide these  things because others might learn from my mistakes.  It was not a good time in my life that I’m not proud of.  But it IS part of who I am today.  It goes hand in hand with the song lyrics I posted yesterday.  I will not deny the worst you can say about me, if it is true.  But I’m not the sum of my mistakes and sin.  It is in my past.  The consequences will at times  be far reaching, but that is not who I am anymore.

Now, I try hard to sow the seeds of good things.  If it isn’t nice, I just try not to say it all, and pray about the thought behind what I considered saying.  I’m not perfect, but it IS the goal I strive for now.  And I pray for those that find it necessary to sow unkindness toward me.  Letting go and not being upset by what is said about me is far easier when I do what God says and just pray for them.

Matthew 5:43-48
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. …

We are not responsible for what others do, only in how we respond.

Matthew 12:36

36 But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment.

I am opting for a Christ like response.  Those that talk, tweet, Facebook or verbalize unkind things about others, will one day have to give an account for that.  And I will give one for my reaction.  My reaction now is to pray for that individual(s) every day.  I sleep solid at night because my conscience is clear, my heart isn’t full of bitterness and hatred any longer.

I Am New And It Rocks!

*found this in the draft section of my dashboard here on the blog, not sure why I never posted it but seems appropriate to put up tonight as I’m in the Word of God preparing for the worship services tomorrow*

I LOVE THIS SONG!!!

Back when I first returned to church, I clung to it.  Now, all the more it is perfect for me.  The lyrics speak to me.

I am not the woman I was a few months ago, or a few years ago.  The worst things you can say about me and what I have done, I won’t deny them.  In fact I freely admit in my writings on both blogs where I have been and what I have done.

I am no longer ashamed of who I was or what I did or where I have come from.

But I’m not her anymore.  In Christ we are made new, and I’m being remade daily into who I should be.

I have a long way to go, I am a work in progress.

“I Am New”

Now I won’t deny
The worst you could say about me
But I’m not defined
By mistakes that I’ve made
Because God says of me
I am not who I was
I am being remade
I am new
I am chosen and holy
And I’m dearly loved
I am newWho I thought I was
And who I thought I had to be
I had to give them both up
Cause neither were willing
To ever believe

I am not who I was
I am being remade
I am new
I am chosen and holy
And I’m dearly loved
I am new

Too long I have lived
In the shadows of shame
Believing that there
Was no way I could change
But the one who is making everything new
Doesn’t see me the way that I do
He doesn’t see me the way that I do

I am not who I was
I am being remade
I am new
I am chosen and holy
And I’m dearly loved
I am new

I am not who I was
I am being remade I am new
Dead to the old man,I’m coming alive
I am new

Forgiven beloved
Hidden in Christ
Made in the image of the Giver of Life
Righteous and holy
Reborn and remade
Accepted and worthy, this is our new name

This is who we are now…

By: Jason Gray, Joel Hanson

My Wild, Untamed Tongue

Image Courtesy of ddpavumba/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Social media has ushered in a new way of communicating.  Where we used to speak our words for others to hear, or actually write them out in long hand on paper, now we put them in texts, on Facebook walls, Twitter etc.  Our words can now reach much further simply by hitting the enter key, or as in this case, publish.  The trouble with social media is it is much easier say things when sitting behind my computer than when I am in person.  I’ve always communicated much better when writing my thoughts, but now there is a safety in the anonymity of using electronic media to stick my opinion and thoughts out there for others to ‘hear’.

In December of 2010, just 4 months nearly to the day after my divorce was final, I ventured back to my church ‘home’.  I thought I was ready for it, the prodigal daughter going home to her Father and faith family.  I was welcomed back with open arms and tears, and I knew that it was HOME.  But it wasn’t long before I hit the ground and ran from there, and somewhat back to what had been familiar to me.  Part of that was due to my own words, which were a reflection of my very battered heart.

I was still up to my neck in bitterness and pain at not only my ex-husband, but many former friends.  One I lashed out about on Twitter.  She proceeded to send copies of that tweet to my pastor, in an email in which she painted herself to be a wounded believer by my words.  She also made sure to let it be known of my past in the swinger lifestyle.  It was an attempt to hurt me, I get that, and she was successful.  It was one more flame on the fire that was burning away at my heart and soul.  That combined with a few other incidents concerning  my ‘words’ and I hit the ground running in to opposite direction of where I needed to be.

Part of the problem with going back was that things had changed.  I was no longer “Pete & Marti”, and that was hard.  The couple who had been our best friends were divorced and he was there alone, she was missing.  And I honestly felt that no one there could understand the road I was on at that time.  Honestly, I still don’t know if anyone understood or could begin to grasp what I was going through.  It was not just the divorce, but where I had been during the final years of my marriage.  I was constantly on the defense so when someone did point something out, it felt like I was being judged.  That was all my own heart issue, I get that now.  This time, I went back and instead of being on the defense I decided that I would simply relax.  I don’t have to be liked by everyone, because not everyone is going to like me.  And yes, I am going to be under scrutiny by my fellow believers, because I did walk away twice, and I had been in a very dark, sinful place for a long while after having been a proclaimed believer.  I gave folks reason to be skeptical and that is okay.  My return isn’t about them, it’s about where I  know I need to be, being fed and worshiping the Lord.

One of the reasons that former friend’s email to my pastor upset me so much is that deep down I knew she was right.  Her motives were questionable, but I had in fact done something that was unbecoming of a believer.  I don’t have to answer for her motives, that is between her and God, but I do have to one day give account for every careless word spoken by me:

Matthew 12:36

New King James Version (NKJV)

36 But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment.

If I had a dime for every careless word/idle word that has come out of my mouth just since I’ve been a believer, I’d never have to work again and could live off of the interest only.  Judgmental? Oh yes that would be me!  Run  off of the mouth? GUILTY!  I used to take pride in the fact that I could slice someone’s jugular verbally.  Not exactly something to be proud of, I know.  And it doesn’t matter if what I say is true, it is the motive and intent of my heart that is behind the words that is also at issue.  When in doubt, I should just be silent!

Which brings me to the whole social media side of the issue.  Back when James wrote his letter that is now the book of James, written and spoken words were all we had.  And while he addressed the tongue, or verbal side of communicating, I think the spirit of the passage applies to written words, and now social media as well.  But not just on posted, public places where we write, but in emails and texts along with the spoken word.  Because we WILL one day have to give an account before God, on the day we are judged, and it will include, no doubt about it, every word spoken and written.

I’m learning to keep my mouth shut more than I run it.  To stick to what my grandpa used to tell me, that if I didn’t have something nice to say, it wasn’t necessary to say anything at all.  I later realized that is what Thumper’s mom taught him, in the movie & story of Bambi, what I call the Thumper Rule.   This is by far one of the hardest things for me to do, keep my mouth shut, sit on my fingers when I want to lash out at someone on Twitter, in my blog, or on Facebook.  I have a tendency to go all mama bear on people and need to be more careful.  Stop, think, think again, wait 24 hours, pray during that time.  It will keep me from stumbling in this area.  And meditate on this verse above from Matthew, apply it like spiritual duct tape to my mouth and hands.

James 3:5-12

New King James Version (NKJV)

Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things.

See how great a forest a little fire kindles! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. 10 Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. 11 Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? 12 Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh.[a]

God’s Amazing Timing

For weeks I’ve felt a tug at this prodigal heart to return to church.  And not just any church but the church family I knew and loved in the past. The one that has prayed for me and my ex husband since we walked away years ago. The same loving faith family that welcomed me back almost 2 years ago, before I ran away again.  That same family that once again welcomes me with open arms and tears, and prayers.  Oh how they have been praying and waiting for God to bring me back on track.  Thankfully they never seem to give up.

I had started a Kay Arthur study a few weeks back, Lord, Only You Can Change Me, and also started reading again the book Dan gave me last time, The Way Back To God, Psalm 51 by Clarence Sexton.  Awesome stuff, both of them.  I actually considered working through 3 of Kay’s studies, the other two are Lord, Heal My Hurts and Lord, Give Me A Heart For You but I’m one  woman with a limited amount of hours in a day.  24, just like you.  So I figured it best to stick to those and get in them in depth and take my time chewing on each lesson.  I’m so glad I did, it’s been life changing stuff all over again. These helped me to open my heart again to focus on my faith.

Wednesday evening I went to the midweek service, which was the home groups that meet once a month.  They are starting a new book, Walking Like Jesus Did; Studies In The Character Of Christ.  I also attended the  women’s bible study Friday, and they are just kicking off, this time in Unit 3 of a great study called Gospel Transformation.  

Interesting to me how many new things are starting just as I return.  And all are things I NEED more than I ever realized.  God’s timing is so perfect.

During the past few weeks I’ve really struggled with ME.  My “it’s all about ME” attitude, the idea that my world revolves around me and “if you don’t like it take a hike” line of thinking.  PRIDE much? Yes, I know.  And then my prayer of late, “Lord I believe, help my unbelief”.  I heard that many times over in bible  study Friday, and it is nice to know that while I was away from being fed, my sisters in Christ all struggle daily with many of the same things I do.  When the ladies were doing a quick  review of the last unit and what had touched them in it and unit 1, something stuck out to me regarding the whole “ME” complex I have had.  Idolatry.

The book says, “An idol is anything we believe we need, apart from Jesus, to make us happy, satisfied, or fulfilled.  An idol arises when we desire something more than we desire Jesus; when we fear things rather than God; when we worship ourselves rather than Christ; when we put our trust in anything other than God; when we serve anything other than Jesus.”  The book provides some areas of fear, trust and desire that may be idols to us.  All I can say is wow.  SO many areas that I could check off either in a direct or indirect way.  It is suffice to say that ME has to get bumped aside.  I  know this, knew it weeks ago, and I have to do away with my self centered thinking.  But first comes the root of this ME idol.  That root would be pain.  The pain I still carry around and even cling too, of my divorce.  I am not so sure that I wanted to hurt, as that it is just familiar, like my teddy bear, so I can hold it.  Do I still feel I was wronged? Certainly. But what does it matter? It is done, over and I needed to let it go.  Forgiveness didn’t come easy, but in the past few weeks I truly was able to just let it go and accept the healing that comes from God and not anything of myself.

Before I made the journey back last week, I knew it was not about me anymore. It was about Christ and my walk with Him.  This time when I went it didn’t just feel like ‘home’, this time it felt like I had never left.  I realized at one point that I had to remind myself I had been away a long time, because it felt as if I had never left there and had just been there last week.  And while  kids have grown up and there are been changes to people, so much still felt the same, as if there had been no absence for me.  That was when I realized that I am right where I belong.  And as I sat there, taking it all in, wearing my Harley Davidson long sleeved, v-neck shirt and jeans, with my wild, bleached blond hair, I knew that I can still be me, who I am.  I don’t need to lose the person God created, that Marti is who she is because she was fearfully and wonderfully made.  God doesn’t want me to not be an individual, He wants me to be HIS individual.

Coloring Outside The Lines – An Over View Of My Coloring Book

My faith stretches way back.  I grew up in the Catholic church, then when I was married at 19yo, I started attending a Evangelical Free Church.  Later I would attend a Nazarene, Conservative Baptist, Charismatic, and a church that would fall closely under the Reformed Baptist faith.  I’m back to the later.

For about 12 years, when married, I was deeply involved in our church.  I worked in the  nursery, taught junior church, Sunday School, was a youth leader, women’s outreach member…if the doors were open, we were pretty much there.  I ran the needs committee, published and printed the Sunday bulletin, the ex was chairman of the deacon board, yes we were very much involved in our church, and at the time our faith was solid.  Our marriage hit a huge bump in the road, hubby left the deacon board to focus on us, and for a while things in the marriage were outstanding  if you ask me.  And then, we slowly began to color outside of the lines as a couple.

When you color outside of the lines of marriage, you crack the foundation of your solid union.  Over time your heart begins to grow deaf to the voice of God, and turn sour toward the things that would please Him.  We began to nit-pick at everything and before long just up and left that church body.  Without someone to keep us accountable by encouraging our walk, asking us about our prayer life etc, we stopped praying as a couple each night before going to sleep, and we drifted further and further away from the narrow road.

We walked in darkness for a number of years, away from the church and our beloved church family, and participated in things I know grieved not only the Lord but friends and family that simply could not grasp what we were thinking and doing.  Many times I suggested we return to our faith, if not that congregation then another, but the then husband would have no part of it, saying the next time he attended a church would be for his funeral.  I wasn’t going to go alone, and after discussions it was pretty evident he wasn’t willing to give up our outside-the-lines lifestyle.  Keeping him became more important than what I knew was right so I focused on that lifestyle, forgetting where I had once been and who I knew I was deep down.

Once divorced, I did make an attempt to return to my faith.  It was short lived.  It is hard to return as a prodigal, even harder when so much is different.  I lasted a few months and a handful of attacks before I moved on.  Sadly, I easily let so many other things become important so that being at church was no longer a priority.

Now, I know better.  My heart has healed of the past wounds, at least for the most part. There are tender areas and scars but surprisingly little pain when I go to my knees and give it over to the One who can put the spiritual balm on those wounds that actually relieves the pain.  I walked in there Sunday starving and was fed.   Now I crave more, so tonight I will go again for the midweek gathering and have more of what I need.  This time around, I’m not at all uncomfortable there, I’m drawn there and feel more at home than ever.  I know there will come Sunday mornings when the very last thing I want to do is pull myself from my warm bed.  Those days I will have to push myself harder to be there.  I expect there may still come attacks from my enemies, but I’m okay with that too.  It isn’t about them. It isn’t even about me. It’s about Christ and what He would have me to do.  They will answer for themselves, I have to answer for me.

I Color Outside Of The Lines

I am an oldest child.  My poor parents cut their parenting teeth on me, and survived not only me but 3 more offspring.  They did well though, no one ended up in jail and we’re all pretty responsible members of society.  At  least we fake that part well most of the time 🙂

I have always been one that is a tad different, maybe even eccentric at times.  I tend to think out side of the box, dance to the beat of an odd drummer, and I color outside of the lines.  All this is a good thing, or can be, if I keep it under the lens of a biblical perspective.  On the simplest of terms, what would Jesus do.  I am not overly fond of that WWJD thing but it works for now.  Perhaps it would be better said, what would a daughter or son of the Most High do, what is the most Christ like, God honoring thing to do?   I love jewelry that is crowns, but not because I think I’m the self-appointed queen of anything.  I love crowns because they remind me that I’m the daughter of the King of the Universe, and that one day every crown I’ve earned will be cast lovingly at the feet of my Savior in heaven.  I wear a cross necklace not to tell everyone around me that I’m a believer (my behavior should do that), but so that when I see it in the mirror, I am reminded to look closely and be sure my reflection is mirroring my Lord and Savior.

Nearly 2 years ago I returned to my home church briefly.  It seemed like a good idea at the time, and it was but I let too much get in the way of it being the life line.  Part of issue I had was that when I went back expecting things to be as I left them, and they were not.  When we left it was “Pete and Marti with the party”.  When I returned it was a solo,  emotionally and spiritually battered mess.  I left and it was various friends, one couple in particular.  I returned and our former best buds were divorced and it was him alone in the pew with his kids.  Other members had left, and there were many new faces.  Then as I was trying to regain my spiritual footing in the midst of feeling judged (my heart issue), a former friend turned enemy decided to send my pastor an email making sure the church knew that they had a wretched sinner among them.  She, claiming to be a born again, God-fearing believer herself, wanted to be certain it was known that I was a former swinger, and that I had ‘attacked’ her on twitter.  It rocked the boat for me just too much.  The wounds of losing my husband in a divorce, the former dear friend turned enemy, the attempts to smear and attack (not to worry they already knew about where I had been), I was unstable and just didn’t last long there before going all lone ranger Christian.  How did that work out for me? Not so good as you can well imagine.

Here I am now, just 2 months shy of the 2 year mark of trying to return, but this time I went back ready.  I am prepared for the storm of judgment and attacks that may or may never come my way, either from others there, others in my life, or that former friend who herself is neck deep still in that swinger lifestyle.  My heart is very aware of where it needs to be each Sunday.  I’m back to being in God’s Word every day, or that is the goal.  I openly admit I miss one now and then but most days it is the case and I’m in the middle of some good bible studies that help too in reaffirming my faith.  This time I’m prepared to stick it out, because I’m not here for anyone by me and the Lord.  I’m there to worship Him, and be fed.  Anyone having an issue with my past, or how I dress, or my wild, bleach blond hair, well that is their issue not mine.  That is between them and God to deal with, not me.

Sadly, when one lives a life of coloring outside of the lines, they leave themselves open for other people to judge.  Okay even those that color meticulously inside of the lines also are objects of others scrutiny.  Anytime you are different from those around you that is just human nature to pick it apart.  Different draws attention.  But different is not always a bad thing.

I dare to be the line pusher, rule breaker and that can be both bad and good.  I have always colored outside of the lines, but not always in a good way.  When we sin we color outside of the clear lines set down by the Lord in His precious Word.  That is a big mistake.  It causes damage, it is sin, and sin always has consequences.  But when I stay within God’s lines, yet color outside of man’s lines? Well that can be a good thing.

I’m going to be doing a series of posts about coloring outside of the lines.  Some will be about my journey off the path and into the pig pen, some will be about my journey back home as a prodigal daughter.  Both are really one big picture of coloring outside of the lines.  But maybe, just maybe, when I’m done, you can see that it isn’t always a sin when the color goes past the boundary, sometimes it can be a beautiful picture if you stand back and look with an open mind.

Psalm 51 – The Way Back To God

I’m re-reading a fantastic book, The Way Back To God by Clarence Sexton.  The dedication in the book reads:

This book is dedicated to all those who have come back to God. I mean by this, true children of God who have drifted and have repented of their sin and cast themselves on God’s mercy for the way back to Him.

In the introduction it mentions that “David’s heart cry in Psalm 51 is the sinner’s guide back to God”. 

A dear friend gave me this book in December of 2010, when I first went back to my church home.  I was the prodigal child, who had gone into the “world” and squandered my riches.  In this case my riches were the blessings, love and support of fellow believers, my testimony of faith, various friendships etc.  At the time I had no idea what was really going on was an issue within MY heart.  Oh, I did not agree with somethings that were being done at my church home, but I did not react in love.  My heart was growing black with a sinful secret life being led while each week attending services to worship.  What could have been an opportunity to share my heart with the elders in my church, and perhaps open their thinking and hearts to a different perspective, became my springboard of justifying leaving.  I still believe things were not handled as they should have been, but I certainly was not behaving in a Christ like manner.  The problem with any church body and leadership is…they are human.  Therefore prone to make mistakes, and we expect them to somehow behave as anything other than sinners, be they saved by grace or not.

King David was “a man after God’s own heart”, precious and blessed by God, protected and loved.  And he loved God too, and served Him and found great favor with God.  Of all people we would not imagine could not only sin, but then keep digging deeper into the pit of darkness, it is King David.  He went from sinful lust, to adultery, to lying, to murder.  This was because, as the book says, “If you allow something to come between you and your walk with God, there is no telling how far you will go and what terrible things you might do if you keep going in the wrong direction.”   Oh true words these are!  I did not take every thought captive to to Christ as the bible teaches to do.  Instead, my thought life led to dabbling in sin, just sticking my hands in the water, then my feet, and before long I was sinking beneath the surface and no longer hearing that still, small voice inside.  I had not dealt with sin before it started, and as I let it in, it took over.  My fault.

David didn’t do what he did over night, it went on for a long time.  It wasn’t until after a child had been born as a result of his sin, a year after the murder of Uriah, who’s wife David had committed adultery with and had a child with, that his sin was revealed.  And while God did in fact forgive David and reconciled their relationship, there were consequences for that sin.  The child died and David’s house never was a place of peace again.  I have seen the consequences of my sins.  But I also know that as a child of God, daughter of the Most High, I’m forgiven when I repented of what I have done.  It was not easy to pull away from those ways either, I was pulled back to the edge of the pool many times to wad in the waters before pulling myself out again.

I’ve lost much that I believe came as a direct result.  While I was not wealthy by any stretch, I did have a pretty nice life with a good husband, a home, pool, hot tub, nice cars etc.  But sin broke down the foundation of the marriage, both mine and his sins, and over time I took things even further.  While I had his blessing to go down that road, and even his support, it was wrong.  I knew it and yet I went there willingly.  It was even my own idea.  Perhaps that is why I am now without  those things I held dear to me.  In this lifetime I will likely never have that answer.  But I do know that as  I have examined my life up until now, I know what I must do and where I must turn.

I have my issues with where I had been in a church family.  But sound  doctrine is more important than feel good music and gospels, or being liked for that matter.   Watering down the Word of God may win over ‘friends’, but it won’t convict the sinner to repent.  So that is why I will go where I once was, I need solid teaching as I progress through this walk and yield to God’s will for me.

A Prayer of Repentance

To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.

51 Have mercy upon me, O God,
According to Your lovingkindness;
According to the multitude of Your tender mercies,
Blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
And cleanse me from my sin.

For I acknowledge my transgressions,
And my sin is always before me.
Against You, You only, have I sinned,
And done this evil in Your sight—
That You may be found just when You speak,[a]
And blameless when You judge.

Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
And in sin my mother conceived me.
Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts,
And in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom.

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Make me hear joy and gladness,
That the bones You have broken may rejoice.
Hide Your face from my sins,
And blot out all my iniquities.

10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me away from Your presence,
And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.

12 Restore to me the joy of Your salvation,
And uphold me by Your generous Spirit.
13 Then I will teach transgressors Your ways,
And sinners shall be converted to You.

14 Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God,
The God of my salvation,
And my tongue shall sing aloud of Your righteousness.
15 O Lord, open my lips,
And my mouth shall show forth Your praise.
16 For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it;
You do not delight in burnt offering.
17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit,
A broken and a contrite heart—
These, O God, You will not despise.

18 Do good in Your good pleasure to Zion;
Build the walls of Jerusalem.
19 Then You shall be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness,
With burnt offering and whole burnt offering;
Then they shall offer bulls on Your altar.