Friday, December 31, 2010

Resolutions

Two blogs in one day? Can it be?

Might be three by the time I am finished. I have so much to say today. And for a writer, that is a very good thing.

Since I already posted about New Year's Resolutions, I thought I should share mine with you all. My most important one for 2011...

I am going to be a writer.

Yes, I know, I already call myself a writer. I do write occasionally. My friend Celeste, who is an accomplished published writer, says one is a writer always, even if one is not currently writing. I wish I could agree with that statement. But my lackadaisical inner self is slowly revolting against the freedom in her belief.

You see, I am a writer who never writes.

I want to. I dream about writing. I stress about my lack of writing, my void of words if I were to sit down and write. But most of all...here it is in all its sad truth...

I am scared and lazy when it comes to writing.

Don't judge me, please.

But something awoke the writer inside of me the other night. Jolted me out of my deep slumber of unwritingness. A remembrance of a time when I loved words more than water.

I was searching for a quote to put on my facebook page, and there was a name, a writer, tickling my memory. I did vague Google searches for her name, a writer whom I had once greatly admired. So sad, I couldn't even remember her first name. Finally, by searching a large mess of keywords relating to one of her short stories, I found her.

Flannery O'Connor.

Obscure Twentieth Century Southern female writer, never to reach the popular heights of Virginia Woolfe or Eudora Welty, but brilliant, and as great an observer of human nature as Jane Austen. I had always wanted to be a writer, but her writings made me realize I could impact my little corner of the world with my words.

I read her quotes for two hours the other night. Finally chose one and stuck it up on my facebook page.

Finding her writings was like finding myself again after a long coma. I have struggled for years wondering what kind of writer I am, what my "voice" sounds like. I have found it. It was there all along, buried with my fears and apathy.

So, I may be a writer already, one who has not yet written. Or maybe I am becoming a writer as I put down words. Who knows? All I know is that in 2011 I will write. A lot. It is in my bones, I know with all of me God created me to write. So I shall set aside my fears and laziness and work hard, even when I do not want to, even when there are no quick words ready. I have learned there are always words, one must just sometimes dig them up out of deep ground.

There it is, my huge, gigantic New Year's resolution. Pray for me as I live it out in 2011, please. And please share yours with me so I can pray and support you also. :)

New Things...

It is January 31, New Year's Eve 2010. A very cold and snowy morning here in Denver. Us Denverites have waited over 3 months for this snow, and it is gorgeous, crisp and sparkling. Perfect.

I have a lot of thoughts about New Year's. The main one is I generally don't care for it. It has always seemed strange to me, having this "new start" plopped down in the freezing cold of winter, one week after the busiest holiday of the entire year. I figured everyone needed something to distract them from the huge letdown that comes after all the Christmas build-up and planning are over...twenty minutes after all the presents are opened. At the very least, I figured New Year's was getting jipped in its holiday rights- every other holiday gets a proper build-up and plenty of time to buy silly decorations. Valentine's Day displays popped up in stores a week ago, after all.

If I were to plan a "New Year" holiday, I would put it in mid-spring, the first week of May. Plenty of tulips in bloom, and lots of warm rain and green grass. It might hit a little close to Easter some years, but that would just mean more ham biscuits at parties. Now doesn't that sound perfect, bees buzzing and baby bunnies hopping around the flowers? I can smell the honeysuckle at midnight now.

But I suppose there is a problem with this spring New Year's of mine. It shows all the rewards of the creation of another year without any of the effort. "New" implies change. And change is not all bunnies and tulips, it is hard work. And messy.

II Corinthians 5:17 says:
"Anyone who belongs to Christ is a new person. The past is forgotten and everything is new."

Sounds like spring to me.

The new happens in our hearts immediately, Christ gives us a new heart instantly. But the living out of that newness is a process, driven by the choices we make each day. We surrender to Christ's leading each morning. We fall, we get back up.

Just like our New Year's resolutions. We choose to change something, to make something "new" in our lives, and then we go about the hard work to accomplish it. It might be new in our hearts immediately, just like the spring, but it must be lived out in the hard work of winter.

So maybe those calendar planners knew what they were doing after all. As you move about the next few months of winter, doing the difficult work of becoming new in some area of your life, I will be doing the same thing too. And when spring gets here, we will be new, just like the tulips and the bunnies. Just don't fall down and stay there. Choose your resolutions wisely, and then go make then happen.

Happy New Year all.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Meloncholy this morning. I suppose my chosen playlist is not really helping...Damien Rice, Joshua Radin, Michelle Branch and Ingrid Michaelson. Attitudes need soundtracks though, right? :) I should be cleaning, baking. But here I am, pounding out my feelings on my keyboard and trying to see through my glasses. Glasses don't mix with tears well...stupid glasses.

This is turning out to be an emotional week- one friend is moving away, another returning. I hate goodbyes. I am not used to being the one left. Our family is usually the one moving and leaving others behind. It sucks to be left behind...you have to actually feel the void being left with the leaving.

I will miss Gina and her kids. When someone lives right next door to you, they weave themselves into your heart. And yet, I will be glad to Alison and the girls back...morning coffee again with my neighbor.

Change never ends.

I feel the distance of my two closest girlfriends sharply this morning...one in VA, the other visiting family in Texas. I need a conversation...a hug.

But for now... it is 9:45, and Ron will be texing me soon, saying "Good morning sweety".

And that will make me feel better. :) Then I will turn on some Christmas music and get on with my day...

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Till all my sleeves are stained red...

Yep...all of them.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qHm9MG9xw1o&ob=av2e
Be honest with Jesus, be honest with yourself...and be free.

thank you Melissa Ann for truth this week. my dear bff. :)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Today...

Happy me.

Good birthday yesterday. Got sang at by Red Lobster servers last night, how embarassing. :) Reminded me of my twentieth birthday, when Ron and I were dating, and he took me to Red Lobster also. Good memories. Was blown away by all the love and wishes on facebook pages. I am so blessed to be loved by so many amazing people.

Planning, planning. :) Ainsley's birthday bash on Saturday, and Onnie's next month. I love entertaining, planning parties, the stress and creativity of all of it. I will be uber stressed until Saturday at 2:10, but it will be good- the stress will push me to my creativity limits, a place I thrive. Then I will be in heaven for two hours, having the people we love here at our home, chill and hopefully having fun. :)

Can't wait can't wait. :)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

God provides

I have heard a lot this week about God providing for our needs. Different friends on facebook have posted Bible verses and thoughts on this topic throughout the week. I have pondered. I know God meets all our needs. I find it interesting how sometimes we have the "meeting" all planned out, we think we've figured out how He's gonna move. But He always suprises us, doesn't He? He comes through with more and BETTER than we could have ever have figured out for ourselves.

I do love suprises. A friend or family member from out of town showing up unexpectedly on your doorstep for a visit. What a wonderful thing! Or perhaps walking into the library and finding a book on the shelf the library system said wasn't there. Little or big suprises, I love them all.

However, other suprises fall into the "bad" catagory. These have been very common among my friends concerning job loss over the past two years. Or job hours reduced to the point of the family not being able to survive economically. That happened to us a month ago. Ron's boss called a meeting and everyone's hours were cut. Substancially cut.

I must admit, I freaked at first. Went into scramble, "I must conquer this situation", mode. (If you haven't ever heard my Moab story, ask me to share it with you sometime. It is shamefully my worst example of this attitude...and pretty interesting too.)

Ron and I talked. We came up with a plan. My sweet husband began putting in job applications for part-time positions, as he would only be working at his full time job 5 hours a day. He is such a good provider for our family, he has always been since day one of our marriage.

I felt very helpless. Without a skill set that pays, and the complication that year round school brings for working parents, I didn't have a lot of options of employment open for me. I could go back to working at night- many women I know do this. I want to contribute financially to our family, I do not want to leave that burden to my husband completely in this crazy economic environment. But I really did not want to leave my family every single night- I've been there and it was not very healthy for us as a family.

We didn't need to worry long. God provided. Ron's hours went back to almost full-time within two weeks. The company got some new jobs in and did some restructuring which allowed them to give hours back to the employees.

But I still wanted to contribute financially in some way. It would be helpful to our family, especially with birthdays and the holidays coming up.

In steps God with a very good suprise.

An opportunity came up for me to watch a middle schooler after school. It pays exactly what I was hoping to make, and means I can include a child in our home each afternoon, which means a lot to me.

A very wonderful suprise from God. Done only in the way He can, exactly on time, and absolutely perfect for our needs.

God provides. And I believe He suprises us in the doing so. He gives good things, always.

God restores too. But that is a topic for another day. :)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

simplification...

Last Thursday we got rid of digital cable. We returned our digital HD DVR cable box to Comcast. Wow, that's a mouthful. And a walletful. In a very calculated response to the influence of media in our daughters' lives, and the high cost of cable we rarely watched as a family, we cut the box out of our lives.

Ron and I came home from the Comcast office, screwed the cable cord from the wall into the back of the tv, and waited. Not for our twelve remaining channels, but for the unknown response of our girls.

No more Icarly. No more Spongebob. No more Mystery Machine. No more I shouldn't be alive because our boy scout leader took us hiking in the Grand Canyon without enough water.

We held our breath.

Our girls walked in, turned on PBS, and began watching a show on possible ancient hobbit-sized ancestors. And then they went to bed.

It took two days for them to realize the 200 channels were gone. And then they still didn't care one single bit. There has only been one complaint in the house this entire past week- and that was from Ron and I as we lamented football season.

Our girls don't care about tv shows. I will reason to guess most kids don't. It is simply something to fill up their time and minds.

Yesterday afternoon Ainsley was watching Arthur on PBS, wondering in anticipation what show would come on after DW saved the world. She sat stunned as a news show popped on the screen. She was very confused and came to ask me about it.

"Mommy, I was watching kids shows and a news show came on. I think someone changed the channel."

I explained to her how the channels we have now only play cartoons for a certain amount of time, and then other shows come on. She has grown up on Sprout, Noggin, Disney, and Nickelodeon, and has never heard of such a thing. I could see her processing this new and fascinating information for about 15 seconds. Then...

"Oh. Can I go outside and play?"

She skipped outside and forgot all about the media universe that used to exist in our televison. I am very happy about that.

And I can't wait till Saturday morning cartoons. :)

Monday, August 23, 2010

New things...

What a momentous Monday.

Maise and Onnie headed to middle school this morning. Onnie is returning as a 7th grader, but Maise is a brand new sixth grader. New school for her, new friends to meet, and new challenges to face. Onnie knows the layout of the school, but it is a brand new year for her as well, with some pretty tough classes, as she is part of the Pre-AP program. She does has some friends on her "team"- Cherry Creek School System speak for the way they separate out the grades. Both girls share teams this year with girls who have bullied them in the past. I pray for a good year for both of them, not problem-free, but one in which they are sucessful and will stand- during the difficult times and for what they believe in.

I pray you have a good, NEW Monday as well. :)

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Road Trip Ephiphany number uno...

"Adventure is out there!!" -Onnie, as quoted from Up. :)
Boy, is she right.

It is August first. Day 26 of the Great Road Trip. At least I think that is correct. I honestly can't really remember anymore which day this all began. I know Mel and I left on a Saturday, saw Matt on a Mon night, was with Suzy on a Thurs, and that we had a tire explode on the way to Estes Park on a Friday. And that the drive back to Virginia began on a Tuesday night, and seemed to end about 100 hours later on a still dark Thursday morning.

But that is what my life has become- days of the week marking out the moments of my summer instead of numbers on a calendar. I am mostly okay with that. I will not remember searching for Frank's grave on July 10, 2010. But I will remember it was a Saturday afternoon, a peaceful and hot one, with the red dirt under our feet and the blue sky overhead. I will never forget Melissa rolling down the window and yelling, "We love you Frank!" at the top of her lungs as we drove away.

This trip has not been about the sights seen, although some have been pretty cool. Driving down a big hill in Natchez, Mississppi and suddenly finding the great Mississppi River, gigantic and majestic. The sunset in New Mexico with glowing clouds and strange green mesas. Seeing the ocean in Biloxi, so happy to find saltwater I could have jumped right off that bridge into it. Pretty awe-inspiring stuff. Although I don't remember the days of the week we saw the cool sights. Days are only connected with people.

Melissa making me laugh so hard I couldn't breathe. That was daily. Hugging Matt again, on a Monday, after so many years. Meeting Suzy's beautiful girls for the first time on a Wednesday. Seeing my husband's smile when we finally made it back on a Friday night. My sweet father fixing the guest bedroom for me so I could crash on a Thursday morning after being awake for 3 days. Hugging Ron's grandmother and my nephews yesterday. It was Saturday. Eating the yummy breakfast my mom-in-law just fixed me, complete with homemade blackberry jam. It is Sunday morning. Picking up Ron at the Roanoke airport- it will be Thursday. Taking the girls to Gatlinburg with my parents, that will be next Sunday.

People make our lives, move the moments and create something out the numbers on the calendar. I am blessed- TODAY.

Thanks for reading!!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Not about my backyard...

I have not been blogging much lately...ahem, at all...because I am quite sick of talking about me and my life. I politely ranted about the tedium and gossip of our lives on facebook last week, and wondered why we all share so much. Does anyone really care what I think about my eggs this morning, or the current state of the weeds in the backyard, or my excitement over Eclipse opening at the end of the month? I doubt it. And I am perfectly fine with that. I am sick of my own opinions about things to be honest.

I have been working on a book project recently, writing 1000 words every morning. Well, most mornings. I have been known to get side-tracked by planning mad birthday bashes, and out of town guests. But mostly I have been writing. However, this morning, I hit the gigantic PLOT wall. And my book will not allow me to climb over it until I figure out exactly what lies on the other side.

So here I am writing about me again. I promise to try to say something useful and relevant today. I will not, under any circumstances, talk about the weeds in my backyard.

I just read Greg Thompson's latest blog, entitled Space, and it resonated with me. If you do not follow Greg's blog, you should start. Especially if you attend Smoky Hill Vineyard. He says good stuff. :) I am not sure how to officially post his blog link, as I am generally technically stupid, but I am sure if you visit the SHV website there is a link somewhere.

Anyway, space. I was just thinking this morning how much time and energy I have since I organized our physical space. And got rid of about half of our belongings. It took about 3 months of very hard work, examining every single item we owned. It was exhausting. Sometimes I watched the show Hoarders as I cleaned out stuff. I am not a hoarder, but it was nice having someone else along for the throw out ride.

The great decluttering of the Lumsden home was immensely rewarding. Not just for the physical beauty and comfort it created either.

I used to feel there was never enough time in the day and I always felt...crowded. Crowded in our physical space, but more so crowded in my mind and heart. My mind was always racing and I was constantly striving for mental escapes. I am sure my feelings of incompleteness and clutter with my physical environment had much to do with this.

But did you know physical clutter usually goes hand in hand with mental clutter? My brain and heart were so muddled with junk- junk from the past, fears of the future, anxieties over today- that I could never have tackled the physical stuff, there was no energy left for that. I tried to let God into the clutter of my mind, I used to be very good at that, but I couldn't even concentrate on Him.

I had to clear out some soul space for Jesus before I could move forward in any way. It started in excruciating baby steps, painful little shavings of self reluctantly and gingerly passed across the table to God. He always responded with love and grace, and peace. The peace was what kept me coming back. Giving more to Him.

In all, it took about a year to clear out the soul space. And I am still clearing. But once I was at peace with Jesus, the energy came to clear out the physical space. These processes have changed my life. I no longer look at my day and think about all the things I will never accomplish. Instead, there seems to be so much time now, and SPACE, that I know I can accomplish anything I set out to do.

But the clutter creeps back in, doesn't it? Just when I've cleared out some space, finding some balance in Jesus, family and all the other stuff thrown at me each day, the Materialistic Ice Cream truck of junk comes by and I start buying stuff again. Busyness and useless stuff get back into my heart and home. Clearing out space is a daily process for me.

Well, that was a lot for today. Go spend some time with Jesus today, and hug someone you love. And wherever you are, go run around outside in the sunshine today. It is the way ten year olds dump all the cares of their world and it is very effective. :) Thanks for reading.

And a very happy birthday my beautiful Maise Brogan today!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Purpose

-Forgive the prose please. I have been reading Jane Austin of late and my words are affected by it. ;)

I have built the Shire around myself, rolling vistas of peace and comfort. There is joy on the horizon and each day is blessed.

But there is no peace for me.

Yes, there is acheivement in this Hobbiton creation built over the years with love and tears. Please do not mistake this for a complaint. I can honestly say I have almost everything I have ever wanted and dreamed of in my simple life. I have a loving and supportive family, three beautiful and healthy daughters, a dear husband who knows my heart and accepts it, friends who will laugh with me and stand by me through heartache, a beautiful and much prayed for home, and a church that welcomes, accepts and challenges me. I have a life blessed beyond all measure.

But I have come to realize there is no challenge in this Shire beyond what is called for in the everyday...only the trees and flowers outside my window grow here. I have buried myself in this peace and put off any challenge which might cause discomfort and struggle. The incentives have been there, the encouragement from my friends and family confidently proclaiming I can indeed become all I want and hope to be...and yet, I face my daily tasks as if they are all I want out of this life, all the acheivement I ever hope for. I tell myself: "This is beautful, this life right now is more than I dreamed, I do not need to acheive more". And yet I feel, deep within, in the place where resides my deepest pains and longing...a purpose unfulfilled. I know that purpose, clear as I know my own name. Oh what lies I have deceived myself with.

I have refused to grow. I have buried my purpose beside me in the ground and silenced it, afraid of the form it might take. Afraid it might not grow at all. Perhaps it would wither in the first harsh sunlight. Or my purpose might drown in my tears, the harsh weeping in my soul. I have laid a heavy stone over Purpose's resting place in the ground... and the stone has FEAR imprinted across.

I have been afraid to fail so I have not bothered to try. I have convinced myself peace and contentment can be found in good things, and one can be sustained on those. And we can be...for a season. But we are called to more- an unfulfilled purpose will not be silenced forever. If plants do not grow, they die. If we are unchallenged, aimlessly wandering through our days seeking only comfort and peace, won't our insides die as well?

The ground of my heart has been shaken, and the roots of my Purpose are stirring, stretching, pushing Purpose up through the ground, reaching for the sunlight. I must remove FEAR now or it will crush Purpose.

I am rolling FEAR away and dumping its burden in a pond.

Good riddance.

Grow Purpose. Have life.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

honesty and my day...

I should be doing laundry. But I have to write.

This blog started out very differently, a collection of my thoughts from Greg's message on Sunday. I have been working on it for a few days now. I will finish it and post it. But not tonight.

Today has been a strange day. I can't quiet my thoughts...they are a jumbled, melancholy mess in my brain. Their feelings are in my heart. Joy and sadness, anger, fear, regret...all brought through my conversations with various people in my life today. Lots of conversations...lots of emotions.

I am so very thankful for the friends in my life. They live all over the place, and some are too far away. They pray for me, care about me, love me. I love them.

I want to talk about my conversations but they were private, things trusted friends share with each other. So I will talk about their effect instead.

There was joy in those conversations. When others know you well enough to "hear" what is unsaid. The dear ones catching that the "I'm okay" you say really means you are not okay at all.

But there was also sadness. The email from my mom wondering why I am not responding to her phone calls or emails..."I know something is wrong Valerie. Please let me know you are okay." She knows me so well. Knows that I avoid when life gets tough. Or I feel awkward about something. Or I have avoided for too long, so I continue to avoid because each day makes me feel worse and worse about my avoiding. I fail me and those around me and hate myself for it.

I struggle with feeling worthy of care and love so I avoid returning them when they are given to me. It genuinely surprises me when others see worth in me and compliment it. It makes me uncomfortable. I want to embrace it but it feels wrong. I cling too tightly or not at all. Or better stated...I cling too tightly and THEN not at all.

The bottom line is that it hurts others. And me, but it hurts those who care for me more. They are left confused, wondering how I can be so caring and involved and then pull away so suddenly. Then I am left apologizing and attempting to explain what can be explained, but brings no comfort when it is.

It is selfishness wrapped in fear and it must stop. The crazy, unreal part of this is I truly care for people. I love people and making new friends. I cherish the relationships in my life deeply in my heart. But I have not maintained them well in real life. I regret that so much.

So, if you are reading this and you are someone I have hurt with my selfish, fearful avoidance tactic, I ask your forgiveness. I am sorry and I ask for grace and a new beginning. I hope I can make an apology face to face...or computer screen to computer screen...in the near future. But this is a start.

Julie, you sat with your arm around me at group last night and for the first time in a very long time I did not feel uncomfortable or that I was unworthy of the time and attention you were showing me. I just felt loved. Thank you.

Okay, this was a very honest writing. I feel a little strange and vulnerable already. But I am going to post it anyway. Honesty is a good thing. :)

Good night dear friends. You are in my heart.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Family Days!!

The world is full of possibility this morning.

Today is family day. I loooove family days. When we lived in Minnesota, when Onnie and Maise were little, we would spend every Saturday together, out and about, all day long. Sometimes we spent the day at Mall of America, taking the girls on rides in Camp Snoopy and eating funnel cakes under the evergreens. Other days we would head to Stillwater and walk the streets, getting ice cream at that amazing parlor on Main Street, and staring at the Victorian Bed & Breakfasts and the river. Sometimes it was just simple...browsing Marshalls down the street from our apartment and lunch at Chammps, where they never failed to ask us if "party of four" was four people, or four kids. They always asked, "Four kids?" first. Yep, people in Minnesota have big families.

Then we went through the "lean years" and family days mostly stopped. We could have found cheap activities to do as a family, usually the most expensive part of family days was the food anyway. But family days mainly stopped because our schedules changed. Either Ron or I worked on Saturdays for years. Mostly I did. I didn't mind working on Saturdays, but I did miss family days. A lot.

Family days have been sporadic over the last 8 months since I quit Outback and became available to the family again on Saturdays. In fact, Ainsley is still not quite sure what they are. That makes me sad. She asked me a little while ago if it meant we were going to be shopping today. And Onnie is not super excited this morning as she wanted to spend the day with her friend Jaleen at the mall. AND family day is starting much later today than usual, it is almost lunchtime. So not the ideal start...but I don't care. I am excited.

Today we are either going to the zoo...it is a free day. :) Or we are going to the Sportsman's Expo where there is supposed to be cool stuff like fishing for the kids. The temp is supposed to reach 50 today!! That's a heat wave after the negative four just a few days ago.

The sun is shining and adventure awaits with my family. :)

Friday, January 8, 2010

LOVE

Friday January 8, 8am

I am sitting in my favorite coffeehouse, Carino’s Coffee, sipping on a Hot Latin Latte. If you are from the southeast Denver area, you are familiar with this locally-owned gem. This is the place for meetings, for regulars, and it is a favorite for writers too. The coffee is top-notch, fair trade beans no less, which makes my heart happy. The d├ęcor is eclectic and warm, rich with local artists and the soothing tunes of local musicians they have in every Saturday. The baristas learn your name and your drink quickly. Best of all, it is not pretentious. They know they are good, the “Best Of’s” from the Aurora Sentinel line the walls in frames. But they just make coffee, with a smile. I love it. It is on the corner of Smoky Hill and Piccadilly in Aurora if you are ever in the neighborhood. And for a certain friend in Ohio, you will be happy to know I have given up Caribou for good. Eating AND drinking them, haha. ;)

Okay, now that I am done plugging my favorite coffee spot, I will get to what is on my mind this morning. I wrote a comment on a friend’s blog yesterday and the subject matter has not left my brain since. My comment did not directly follow the blog, as I figured out after re-reading the comment thread this morning. But it followed what my heart was telling me. A migraine muddled my thoughts yesterday and I did not get many of them down. Today is a new day, a headache free day, so I am plunging in.

The blog entry I commented on was an interview with a prominent former pastor, someone we have all heard of whether we go to church or not, a Mr. Ted Haggard. You can read the series of interview articles here:http://bit.ly/8NDBXk. I encourage you to subscribe to Donny’s blog if you are not already reading it. He has an amazing life story, is a great writer and believes in healthy debates about important stuff. He might respectfully disagree with your viewpoint, but he will be your friend at the end of the day, regardless of how the conversation goes.

The theme of the comments popping up yesterday on the blog focused on repentance, restoration, and love. I addressed the LOVE part. Or lack thereof from some of the other commentors.

This subject hit deep in my gut. Made me cry and want to scream at mean-spirited, legalistic, self-righteous people. Wow. That sure is showing love, isn’t it? I have read words, words by Donald Miller, by Rob Bell, by the people at XXXChurch, and by my friend Donny Pauling...words on love that have resonated in my soul. I'm not sure I can adequately form words to express how strongly I feel about this topic. But I will try.

I remember my parents loving others as I grew up. They built relationships with our neighbors, our ACTUAL living next door neighbors, and to my knowledge they did not speak negatively about “sinners”…aka…NCFs, Non-Christ Followers. There was criticism, but all aimed at fellow Christ followers, those who did wacky, non Christ-like things. But my mom and dad were good at loving people. I learned from them the world is a hurting place, and many people have the hurts they do because they do not have Jesus in their hearts. Now, I don’t think Jesus is the magic pill to take away all pain in our lives…sorry, I’m not a Joel Osteen groupie. But I got what they were saying as a young child. There was never condemnation of those who did not know Jesus, just the knowledge that we show love and tell others about Him if the chance came up. It was a beautiful thing as a child to learn this.

Then we switched churches. And denominations. We found those people that had been missing from our lives. Those self-righteous people. The ones with all the answers…the only “right” ones with God.

We found legalism.

I will not go into that story now. It is another one for another day.

But here's what I learned from them: You can’t genuinely love a person who has sin in his life. If you do not point the sin out and eventually alienate the person for unrepentant sin, you are condoning it. And then YOU go to Hell.

I am not saying my church solely taught me this, it was a combination of many attitudes and people. But I learned it just the same.

Because obviously people respond best to judgment and condemnation. Right? And we were put here on this Earth to be Spiritual Nazis for Jesus, right? Right? Wait, is that what I read in Matthew? Surely it must be in there somewhere…

I have spent the last ten years of my life digging legalism out of my heart. Ripping it up by the roots and killing the weeds that tenaciously pop back up. It is an insidious, choking thing that will suffocate all the love right out of your life.

I am a new person now. Changed by love. Transformed by the truth of LOVE, which says I am NO BETTER than anyone else and no less either. My sins are just as despicable as anyone else's on this planet, there are NO differentiations. I need Jesus daily, moment by moment, or I will turn back to my despicable sins. Jesus does not love me more or less than anyone else. I have love and hope to share of an incredible, loving, life-transforming relationship with the God of the universe. That is the only thing that makes me different from the prostitute down the street that doesn’t yet know Jesus. Or my gay friend Paul for example, since homosexuality was a topic of blog comments. The ONLY thing. Truly Jesus is the only difference. Can I say that again? JESUS IS THE ONLY DIFFERENCE. That deserved all caps.

Those of us who are Christ followers were shown love and made a choice at some point to accept that love. How does that make us superior in any way to those in our lives who haven’t yet seen or accepted that love? It is so strange the way we assess things in “religious” circles.

That’s all for now. I know, I left out Bible verses. Next time I will get to those. Or add some for me in the comments section. :) Thank you for reading. I know the topic was heavy and long, thank you for hanging in there with me. Look forward to next time.