Spiritual pride versus truth in love

Her dark brown hair was pulled back into a tight bun. On top was a perfectly placed white head covering, complete with white strings, her modest caped dress hung well below her knees. The 17-year-old scooped ice cream from the cooler as she tried to place the customer’s accent.

“Why do you wear that,” He asked, pointing to her head.

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As a young lady (Sorry I con’t figure out how to rotate the photo)

She referenced 1 Corinthians 11 where Paul instructs women to keep their heads covered and Ephesians 5 where the Paul tells women to submit to their husbands. That’s the only answer she knew. Not too long prior, she had called her older sister who had stopped wearing the covering, pleading with her to come back to the faith.

“I’m curious,” the customer continued, “I’d like to know more about your religion. Come see me at the table over there when you get a break.”

She was used to people’s questions and curiosity. She was curious about him. Her first free moment, she walked over to the table where he waited patiently. Their conversation flowed easily. He was a businessman from South Africa and that brought him to the area. He had never seen Mennonites before and had lots of questions about their faith.

“What do they believe about the Holy Trinity,” he asked.

“The what?” She replied.

“The Holy Trinity, you know, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”

“Um, I don’t really know,” She muttered, embarrassed. “I’m not sure I really know much about the Holy Spirit.”

“Wow! Really?!” He gasped. “You don’t know what you are missing out on!”

He went to great lengths to share with her how the Holy Spirit guides, convicts, woos, calls, changes, sets free. He told her that while he respected her religion, it seemed to come with a great deal of bondage, unlike the freedom Christ offers. He shared enthusiastically, but with love and joy, not condemning or mocking like she was used to from those who didn’t understand her religion. He seemed to understand that her faith was not just a personal interpretation of Scripture, but was rooted in generations of tradition and ritual that had become her very identity. In her mind she was wondering what kind of flake she was talking to, but something in her spirit stirred.

I am that girl.

Charles and I stayed in touch, writing occasionally, even though I never saw him again. Several years went by. I eventually stopped wearing the head covering and plain clothes and at some point the letters from Charles ceased. I never gave it much thought. I was always amazed he had taken so much time and interest in a little Mennonite girl from across the pond anyway.

Then one day I received another letter post-marked South Africa. This time it was Charles’ mother telling me he had died unexpectedly of a heart attack at 42 years old. While she grieved she consoled me, his long distance friend, that he was ready to meet God and that he would be waiting for us when our time came. She told me that he had often spoken of me to her and that he was excited about the freedom I was finding in my own relationship with God.

I still have a refrigerator magnet he sent me some twenty years ago. Every time it catches my eye, I thank God for sending Charles my way.

As my freedom grew, so did my “Holy Spirit Fire.” I wanted everyone to have a taste of this freedom. I shared with anyone and everyone with or without their consent. I knew the truth and it had set me free.

I got bold with my new-found freedom, but not everyone was ready to be enlightened. I could rapid-fire loveless truth bullets faster than lightening, leaving a trail of stunned, wounded loved ones in my wake.

One day I drove my rusty (not-so-trusty) Chevy Blazer to an Old Order Mennonite preacher’s house, kicking up a trail of dust as I barreled down the long gravel driveway. I caught him completely off-guard in the garden and demanded answers to questions about this faith I’d always had, but was too afraid to ask before. By this point I had studied Scripture on my own and I had a Scriptural rebuttal for every single answer he gave me. He was speechless and I was proud.

Nobody won that day. Although I did eventually gain a reputation as a “Scripture authority to be reckoned with,” I lost friends. A lot of them. No one wanted this freedom I had when it caused me to be arrogant and heartless toward those who understood and interpreted Scripture differently than I.

Over time my message softened. I began to remember where I’d come from and how firmly and faithfully I believed what I believed, despite the bondage. I no longer consider myself any more enlightened than the next person, because we are all on an individual faith journey. I also came to love and cherish the foundations of my faith formed in youth and childhood.

We can boldly proclaim our freedom and enlightenment all day long, but I quote Paul in Galatians 5:13-15 NLT. “For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ But if you are always biting and devouring one another, watch out! Be aware of destroying one another.”

I go back to my story about Charles. If he had presented his Holy Spirit theology in an arrogant or demeaning way, I would never have listened. I would have been defensive and closed, spouting off my rhetorical answers like a pre-programmed champion. But instead he shared with love and my spirit resonated with his words.

We can dispute our theologies all day long, we can argue man’s laws and God’s laws, and which ones were historical and cultural and which ones are timeless and eternal. But this I can assure you, “the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is NO LAW against these things.” (Galatians 5:22-23 NLT). Emphasis mine.

There will always be people who disagree or understand differently. We should expect and respect that. But they are living as faithfully to the Gospel as they understand it. I am always eager to break bread together, to share honestly and openly and safely, and to learn from one another. I am faithfully living out my call as best as I can understand it with my finite and imperfect being and enjoy walking this road with others.

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Our faith stories are important. Let’s not diminish or hinder the work of God in one another with loveless truth bullets that maim and wound other parts of the body who understand and interpret Scripture differently. Find common ground and build trusting relationships with people outside of your circle of influence and see what fruit grows. Seeds sown in discourse and contention will reap simply that. Seeds sown in love… Well…

Hebrews 10:24 NLT “Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.”

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More than we can handle

I’ve never subscribed to that tired worn-out cliche that “God won’t give us more than we can handle.” We WILL at some point or other go through more than we can handle, (whether it comes from God or not is perceived by the individual,) and we WON’T be able to get though it on our own. 


But when going through more than I can handle, I am amazed again and again at the empowering of God’s Spirit and Amazing Grace. 

That doesn’t mean I don’t feel overwhelmed at times, or that I don’t want quit. I’m human and I’m real. Giving up, quitting, hibernating until “it” gets better, are all options that dangle in front of my eyes like candy to a toddler. 

But somehow, with God’s help, we can not only make it through the trial, but find the redemptive work of grace within it. 

Whatever you are going through today, I pray you can sense God’s presence and power within and through you. 

Anger; a beautiful release

I attended a spiritual retreat this weekend. One might think it was coincidence that a day before this retreat was to take place that a family I know lost their 11-month-old daughter in a tragic accident. I believe God used this tragedy to reveal himself to me in a new and beautiful way. (***I do not believe God causes tragedy, but I do believe he can use it to form and transform us when and if we are ready to allow that.)

Through our time together, with people unrelated to this incident and most of whom were unassociated with my work through The Sadie Rose Foundation, God’s Spirit revealed to me that I was harboring anger, lots of it.

I admit, when I have the faith to believe that God can raise a child out of a sick-bed and he chooses not too or when I feel he could have easily prevented a tragedy, I wrestle with anger. I don’t just wrestle with it, I get downright mad. When I talk with families grieving their precious children gone too soon, I wonder why. Over time, these have snowballed into a jaded feeling that my prayers are ineffective and I have questioned at times whether or not God really cares. Why does he allow these tragedies to happen? Why do innocent children suffer?

At the retreat, we were given a Scripture to meditate on and to ask what God might be saying to us through that passage. Two phrases stood out to me as I read it again and again.

“They know his voice,” and “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand.” (John 10:4 and 28)

I contemplated why these two phrases and wrote the following in my journal; answers I believe came from the Holy Spirit of God.

” Those children whom I call, know my voice. They are not afraid. I give them eternal life and no one can snatch them out of my hand. I know your pain. I know you feel these children have been snatched out of the hands of their family, but they are not afraid to come to me. They innocently trust and know and are comforted by my voice.

They do not perish. In truth, they never die. They are transitioned from their bars of clay into eternal life in the spirit.

They are held lovingly in my arms and no one, not death, nor life, nor angels, nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate them from my love or can snatch them out of my hand.”

Wow… a new perspective for me. I did not get my “why” questions answered, I probably never will this side of eternity, nor do I claim to understand it. I am not disillusioned to think that this will keep me from ever feeling that anger again, but I know that I felt a beautiful release of anger, a letting go, and a new and fresh peace to move forward.

May the Holy Comforter be near to all who mourn this day and may we hear and recognize the voice of the Gentle Shepherd inviting us to trust him.

I’m not a person of faith

I confess, I’m not a person of faith, not by nature anyway. It is not my natural response to immediately call on Jesus when our daughter is diagnosed with pneumonia and bronchitis or when I get a voicemail from my doctor on a Friday evening telling me she’s reviewed my sonogram and to call her first thing Monday morning.

I get there. I cry out to God. I do feel his presence and comfort in the midst of these storms, but I am the kind of person that needs the encouragement of my family and friends and fellow believers to remind me to trust.

I am Peter who has the faith to step out of the boat, but gets overwhelmed by my circumstances. I am David who longs to serve God wholly and completely and yet fall short in my sin. I am Abraham who hopes against hope that God’s “got this” and yet I am Thomas who can only believe by seeing and touching Jesus for myself. I am Mary, in awe and wonder of the work God has done and wants to do in my life. I am Martha who is so busy serving that I forget the “one thing” that is necessary; to sit with Jesus and to rest quietly in his presence.

I chastise myself for reaching out to others, then I read and listen to the messages of love and encouragement and support and I am thankful and overwhelmed at the beautiful friends I am blessed with. I can only pray I encourage others the way I am lifted up.

We are brothers, sisters, family and friends; sojourners in this difficult and joyful life. We are to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice. In this togetherness, we experience a glimpse of the relationship God longs to have with us.

I am so thankful, so very blessed to be surrounded by people who constantly remind me to “Turn my Eyes Upon Jesus.” Because of you, my friends, I am challenged to be a person of faith.

Does God care about lent?

I wrestled with Lenten sacrifices this year. What to give up? What to take on? What is the purpose? Does God really care?

Before I married a Lutheran, I had not heard terms like Shrove Tuesday, Ash Wednesday, and Lent. Well, I might have heard them, but they carried no meaning.

Although we’ve attended a Shrove Tuesday supper since my husband and I married, last year was the first time I then followed through with a Lenten sacrifice.

I gave up coffee and fried foods. Although I don’t eat a lot of fried foods, I love them and well, coffee is an everyday companion of mine so both were significant to give up.

I stuck with my commitment and felt it was definitely a time of growing within myself. I found the Lenten season to be much more meaningful as I was reminded daily of Christ’s sacrifice on my behalf.

But this year, I couldn’t decide what to give up. I prayed about it and had lofty aspirations of incorporating a Daniel Fast, but I did not want to set myself up for failure. I thought about giving up coffee and fried foods again, but I just wasn’t feeling it.

I decided that unless I got clear direction, I would not do anything specific for this year.

Then, this Ash Wednesday morning, it came to me. “Daily Sacrifice.” Listening daily to the whispers of the Holy Spirit. Don’t eat that for now,” “do this,” or “go there.” My prayer is that my life will become totally directed by the promptings of the Spirit.

Is lent for us or for God? As with any ritual, I believe we can go through the motions of lent without it having much purpose or meaning, but I also know it can enrich and empower our faith. It can be for both us and God if it accomplishes the intended purpose of deepening our relationship with Him.

I am looking forward to experiencing the work of the Holy Spirit in my life this season and pray that being guided by his presence becomes an automatic response. I am thankful for the exposure to this practice that has caused me to become more reflective of the power of Easter in my life.

Experiencing the holy in everyday moments

I was excited about participating in a “NuDunkers On Pneumatology” online discussion this morning. Pneumatology is just a fancy word for the theologies of the Holy Spirit. With a 4-year-old and a 17-month-old at home, I prepared ahead of time to make sure I would have the perfect quiet atmosphere for the discussion of this fascinating topic.

Yeah right!

Instead of reflective and educated ruminations about the Holy Spirit, I was saying things, “Elsie, get Eli’s underwear off your head.” “Eli, don’t sit on top of Elsie and stop pulling the dog’s ears.” This, all while listening as best I can to an honest and through-provoking discussion about the Holy Spirit.

But this is the beauty of my life; holy moments wrapped in the humdrum of the everyday. My life has many seemingly insignificant moments and yet when I pause and pay attention, I hear the whispers of God in it all. And in my personal experience, that is my pneumatology of the Holy Spirit.