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This Is Not Okay

Generally, I think there is 100% more nuance about most circumstances than most of us are willing to come to terms with. We can live in a fantasy social media world where a beautifully crafted or humorous meme tells you how to think or feel or react and in many cases, influence you to feel guilty (or justified) for what you did or didn’t do.

This reality for me is all the more complicated because I have a mental illness (OCD) where I perpetually struggle with guilt and perfectionism and if I responded to something the right way or wrong way or offended someone, and it goes on and on in my head. I have irrational fears and thoughts that come to my mind that I may say or believe something that I don’t really believe. So there can be a lot of confusion in my brain. Sometimes, I can feel it so deeply I have difficulty functioning productively for a day or so after a major current event.

For this and other reasons, I have often watched current events and not said my opinion on social media and even avoid social media during these times for the sake of my mental health. I didn’t say who I did or didn’t vote for or comment on many current events in the past year. I chose, rather, to have conversations privately and in-person with people. I have not been privately silent and have had many conversations to see where people are coming from. In most of my relationships and situations, I have found that to be the most fruitful approach.

While it may be true there are many people in the world who need to stop more often, be silent, and examine the nuance, there is another side of the coin. Some of us over-analyze everything, and consequently, say and do nothing. One of the biggest things I learned in my thousands of dollars of therapy to overcome compulsive over-responsibility is that, assuming you are a reasonable person, if/when you should personally respond to something, you WILL know it. It won’t be a question. It won’t be confusing. If you are listening, your body will tell you if you should respond.

I watched the VICE news video (Charlottesville: Race and Terror) late last night and felt so sick to my stomach, absolutely disgusted at this evil and naïve enough to be somewhat shocked there could be so many people mobilized with hate. It made me realize now more than ever before, a person can even begin to make nuance an idol, which in turn can mislabel things as complicated and can lead one to minimize or begin to justify complacency.

But like I said, if you are listening, your body will tell you when things really aren’t that complicated. I’ve been listening to my moral meter for the past couple of days, and it’s quite clear. In fact, it’s the opposite of complicated. And everything inside of me keeps screaming…Say it out loud today, Mindy: This is NOT okay. Period. No nuance. WHITE SEPREMACIST NATIONALISM IS NOT OKAY.

Repost: Winter and the Hope of Spring

It was Groundhog Day this week. Which for me means two things: I watched the movie Groundhog Day and we can mark our calendars for six more weeks of winter. (2016 update: apparently no shadow this year!! Unpack the paddle boards, folks!)

winter benchMy husband and I just moved back to the midwest where six more weeks of winter could be pretty intense. In an interesting plot twist though, it was actually 60 degrees and fairly sunny the day we pulled into Nebraska in the middle of January. But prior to that unexpected blessing and as we were getting ready to move, I found myself thinking about how crazy we were to move to a place much colder right in the middle of the winter. I started to have fear about not being able to safely drive across the country because of snow storms as well as a low-grade dread about the remainder of a treacherous winter I would most likely experience once in Nebraska. As I found my heart becoming fearful, I was gently reminded by the Lord of the winter past and how God carried me through. And so, I began to ponder the ways of enduring winter and what good it can mean for my soul. Here are a few of those thoughts.

It seems like a general observation from life that most suffering/struggle comes in season, as Ecclesiastes 3:1 (ESV) says “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” Experiencing the natural order of the seasons on this earth (Fall, Winter, Spring, Summer) is actually an amazing way we can spiritually reflect on the restoration that God is bringing to earth and in our lives.  In this we find that after the bitterness of winter there is the hope of spring- the promise of new life, restoration, resurrection. Thinking of spring helps me because perseverance through hard times seems a lot more doable when there is a promise of hope, and so I want hold on to the fact that winter is not the final say. It will end, and there will be spring.

spring blossoms

This is a truth we find in salvation, too. If there is no resurrection there would be no gospel. There must be victory over darkness. So, we can endure the winter (literally and metaphorically) with joy because we know it is not the end, and because it will end. As Hebrews 12:2 (ESV) says about Christ, “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Romans 5 says, “hope does not put us to shame….” As we live in the tension between the already and the not yet of this life, we have experienced the joy of the resurrection of Christ but we still anticipate the final return of Christ. Even if we don’t have immediate relief from suffering in our life, we know and can trust we will have ultimate relief when Christ returns. If we do not hold on to the hope of heaven we will constantly be disappointed. We must view earth in light of heaven, and we know this world offers nothing that compares to that hope. And so we hold on to hope, believing he is restoring all things in Christ. The winter of life builds hope like nothing else (Romans 5). When we get through it, we look back and see He carried us all the way. We see His amazing steadfast, covenantal love in new ways. We then see the beauty of the spring and we appreciate it all the more, giving glory to God for the new life he created.

For me, the spring and summer is all the more amazing when I have walked through a hard winter. So right now as I endure this winter, I have the blossoms of spring to look forward to. And when they come, I will look at them with fresh eyes and they will beckon me to give God glory for the work He did in the depths of winter to bring about the new life of spring. I’m reminded it’s right now that God is making things new. Even now, when I look outside and see snow and look at the weather and see it may get to -12 tonight, He’s doing something.

The Worry Transfer…

This is an interesting point about how our fears and worries can transfer to others. It’s in reference to church planting, but I think it’s true beyond that:

Worse, my fear transfers easily to my husband. Expressing my worries, I pull his attention away from God’s promises to us and cause him to grow discouraged.

From pg. 115 out of The Church Planting Wife by Christine Hoover

January: Preparing to Plant

I found that in December I wrote more on my blog because I had unintentionally picked a theme for the month, and then as a result, I had a writing prompt for each week. That theme was Advent. My overall blog theme isn’t super cohesive at this point. I am still hoping that will evolve. I look back and I’m mostly writing about fear, I think.

Well, this month I am going to pick another theme/writing prompt. That theme is church planting. For most of my readers, I’m guessing this theme isn’t that interesting, but it’s where I find myself these days. I feel this need to continue to prepare in all ways possible in this last month, whether it be reading, writing out my feelings or story, building my faith, or dealing with my fears.

So that’s what to expect for the rest of the month on this space: all things connecting church planting and my soul.

My 2016 Reading Shelf: January

Last year, I had a post of 30 something books I wanted to read in 2015. Yeah…that was a fail. While my long-term goal is to read that much, I realize that I needed to break it down more and be more realistic. So, I’ve adopted a Reading Shelf list for January, and I’m not going to add to my shelf until some of the other books come off. That way I am at least accomplishing something. 

Last year, I started a few books, but didn’t finish very many, if any. So my first goal is to finish some of those 2015 books, finish a couple of new ones I started over Christmas, as well as do some “research” reading I need to do this month for a speaking project and a couple of book groups. I also want to keep at least one fiction book on the shelf. So, when I pick a book to read this month, here are the books on my shelf:

My 2016 One Word: PLANT

plantThe word PLANT came to my mind last week as I was considering a possible theme for my life this year. At first I thought it was a little too obvious considering we are about to plant a church, but upon reflecting on my recent years of life, I think this word adequately describes where I am in my life church plant and beyond. The majority of my life I was a doer. Then God brought that idol crashing to the ground. For the past two years I have had to come to peace with the fact that this isn’t one of the primary descriptors of me anymore. There are seasons of suffering and seasons of rest, reflection and recalibration after suffering. That’s a description of my past two years. But now, by God’s grace, it’s time to start doing again. This time I’m starting that process of doing with different motivations and most importantly, very prayerfully, not to make an idol factory out of my effort.

This year I just want to sow to faithfulness, righteousness, good works, mission, love, joy, peace, study of his word and writing. I want to plant seeds of these things and learn to grow in trust that God is working redemption in all of my imperfect effort. I want to discern better when I am to sow and when I am to wait, and to not be overly concerned with others vineyards or their expectations of the seeds I am planting in my own. And I want to grow in cheering on other’s planting to all things good because I am coming to believe with CS Lewis, “The more we thus share the Heavenly Bread between us, the more we shall all have.” My sister or brother in Christ, with that huge beautiful vineyard, well…they are not my enemy. They aren’t even my competition. Jesus multiples loaves in his provision. There is enough of His majesty for all of us.

There are seasons in life of suffering and then we take time to recover and rest. And that is okay. But, I’m discerning for me it’s time that I exit that season. He’s given me a lot of seeds to plant as a result of this recalibration, and I’m so grateful for all the lessons I learned.I know I will continue to learn. And I know I need to exit slowly and plant sparingly. Maybe at the end of this year I’ll find I wasn’t quite ready to plant or maybe all the seeds sown don’t grow. Maybe it all fails. These things are quite possible, but my worst fears aren’t reasons not to sow. God has promised to provide for me, even if all my sowing fails. I can walk forward sowing seeds in faith resting in the promise that HIS effort and plan and promise, not mine, is the final word over my life.

So, cheers to a year of Farmer Mindy and planting! Who knows, maybe I’ll even finally be able to find the perfect pair of overalls I’ve been wanting.

The Dead Man Principle & Supernatural Living

My goalsThere is a simple rule of goal-setting I learned in my thousands of dollars of behavior therapy and support groups called the Dead Man Principle. I haven’t been able to find the origins, but I’ll share it with you…and for free!! The basic principle is that when setting a goal you should never set a goal a dead man could do better. Goals such as, stop over-eating, stop being anxious, stop getting upset…all of these things a dead man could do better than you ever could.

After hearing this for the first time, my mind immediately went back to a sermon Chris preached once on Romans 6: Dead to Sin, Alive to God. In it, he talked about how when the Bible says we have died to sin, it means we are like that of a dead man- these desires and passions are no longer alive in us. This truth is the ultimate expression of the Dead Man Principle.

Christ took our sinful desires upon himself when he was crucified – when he died, we died. But because of His resurrection, we are now alive in Christ and can live in ways that are contrary to our sin nature. The way we live our life on this earth should be a reflection of this reality. Because of Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit, we have been given the power to live a supernatural life. Therefore, our life goals should also be a reflection of this. Rather than saying, “stop being anxious,” we say, “walk by faith.” Walking means we are alive. Life, not just death. And walking by faith requires putting off anxiety, renewing our mind, and supernatural dependence on the Lord (Ephesians 5). In Christ, we are dead to sinful anxiety and alive to faith.

Here’s how Francis Schaeffer describes our life of faith:

According to the Bible, we are to be living a supernatural life now, in this present existence, in a way we shall never be able to do again through all eternity. We are called upon to live a supernatural life now, by faith. Eternity will be wonderful, but there is one thing heaven will not contain, and that is the call, the possibility, and the privilege of living a supernatural life here and now by faith before we see Jesus face-to-face. This is the demonstration that God intends in the world until Christ returns, and it is the Christian who is to be the demonstration. Christians are called upon to be a demonstration at our point of history that the supernatural, the normally unseen world, does exist and, beyond that, that God exists. They are to do this individually and corporately, each generation of Christians to their own generation.”

Living a life of faith is not your average, run of the mill January goal setting standard. It is unique, extraordinary, and supernatural. It is more than a life free of binge-watching Netflix and binge-eating ice cream. It is water walking. It is living in love. So when we purpose how to live in 2016, sure let’s set some goals. But let’s also remember that the old nature in us died with Christ, so let’s ask the Holy Spirit to help us walk by faith in newness of life.

 

**Note:Goal-setting sheets pictured are free downloads from Money Saving Mom. I use these each year for my goal-setting process/review.

New Year, New Associations

stovesI started 2015 prepping for a lot of impending change. We were moving to a new city and saying goodbye to some dear people as well as many other structural supports that essentially built a wall of protection around me during my war with inordinate fear. What would I do without that wall?

Change, even good change, is difficult and scary for someone like me. That’s not an excuse. It’s just a fact. If I don’t prep for it or gain perspective quickly once it happens, my ability to adapt is like that of a fit throwing toddler. That’s why it’s sometimes easier just to stay stuck.

I worked with my therapist the entire month of January 2015 to prep for the upcoming changes that would happen in my life. She helped me see that although change is difficult, it also brings with it the opportunity to build new associations in my brain. On a new, fresh day I haven’t done the things of yesterday, so I can choose new ways of living, or in other words, choose to associate with all things good or pure or true. It’s like Anne of Green Gables once said, “Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?” As a new day and new year begins, the more I choose to associate with good things, the more they overpower the old things.

Exhibit A of this concept: My stoves in the picture above. On the left you will see my Arlington small space living stove. I checked and double-checked this stove countless times to make “sure” it was off. Although I gained a lot of victory over this fear before I left Arlington, the fear was still strong. Even if I behaved right and didn’t re-check it, I would still have these nagging obsessions up to the end: Is it off, are you sure it’s off, maybe you got distracted, you don’t really know, you should go back and check it to be sure. After understanding the nature of OCD, I learned not to give into these obsessions by checking, but the thoughts and fears didn’t stop as quickly as they did in other areas. But in my new Omaha apartment, I had never been a slave to checking a stove, so I could build a new association with the new stove. And guess what, I did it. As I was tempted to go down the path of checking, I told myself I didn’t have to go down that road because it was an opportunity to build a new association, a new path, and choose faith. By God’s grace, I haven’t let this stove enslave me. It took a few months, but the power of that stove checking fear and obsession is so much less. The nagging thoughts of being “sure” it is off have stopped for the most part because I built new associations in the way I was going to behave. Now, I don’t leave my house and continue to obsess about if my stove and oven is off.

Sure sometimes I double-check or slip up in my fear or the “what-if” fears come. But in those times the Holy Spirit meets me and reminds me that in Christ, I am dead to fear but alive in Him (Romans 6:11). The old has gone, the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17). New mercies are given each day (Lamentations 3:22-23), each year, so we have the power to associate with and give all allegiance to our Savior.

So as we begin this new year, and purpose to have a Happy 2016, may it be a year we show our true allegiance to King Jesus by embracing His new mercies each day. When we embrace new mercies we are building new associations by putting off the old, renewing our minds, and putting on the new (Ephesians 4). Christ is worthy of all our devotion and he has given us all the grace and power we need to live in the goodness of newness of life.

Perfect Love Casts Out Fear

“Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” Mary heard these words from the Angel Gabriel recorded in Luke 1:28. They “greatly troubled” her, as she didn’t understand what they could mean (v. 29). Favored one? The Lord is with me? “And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God” (v. 30). And the prophecy came. She would be the Mother of the Messiah, the King. She was told that day, “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High” (v. 32).

So she submitted herself to the spirit, calling herself a servant, and went on her way with the Light of the World growing within her. She believed. This was said of her by Elizabeth, “And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord” (vs. 45). And she praised. She said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant, For behold, from now on all generations will called me blessed” (2:47-48). Mary, Mother of Jesus, believed the Word of the Lord and was blessed.

And in that stable, fleeing from harm, she birthed the Messiah. As she took that journey in faith and then laid this tiny Savior baby in a manger, in the midst of all the uncertainty, she must have trusted that what the angel said was true, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.” She had found favor: “perfect love that casts out fear” (1 John 4:18).

A Savior had come. This was foretold. And now, there would be a king who would reconcile sinners to God. The Word made flesh (John 1). A king whose life brings grace, unmerited favor. ‘Perfect love that casts out fear.”

And so, as Mary, we abide in this love, have confidence in this love, speak of this love, and give this love….

14And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. 1 John 4:14-19 (ESV)

There will be a day when the Lord will come again to judge the world, and for those who abide in this Love, the Lord will say as he did with Mary when Jesus came the first time, “Do not be afraid, for you have found favor with God.” Covered by Grace, the unmerited favor found in Jesus, those who believe In Him will have confidence on that day. And so we can rest in that Love today knowing that just as Mary knew when she held baby Jesus, “perfect love casts out fear.” The Word has come to bring Hope, Joy, Peace, and Love. Through Jesus, we live in these things and by these things until He comes again. Believe the Word of the Lord and be blessed.