"Vital Optimism"

This is just a thought...one point, taken from the teaching I did at the Master Builder's International Conference last week. 

Been contemplating the reality of  jaded Christians...oh, for about the past year or so.  Many, many start well, but don't continue well.  They don't leave the faith necessarily, they don't even visibly "backslide".  They simply become critical, unloving, and (deep down) unbelieving.

Maybe they get tired.  Most have been hurt and disappointed by life and by the church.

Well, join the flippin' club.  You heard me right.  Sorry if you were expecting sympathy, but you aren't getting it.  You don't need sympathy, you need someone to shake you out of your self awareness.

Anyone who has been in ministry - lay or otherwise - for longer than 5 years has seen some sordid stuff.  They have bumped into the weaknesses of others, even (gasp!) their spiritual leaders. They have had prayers seemingly unanswered.  They have been disappointed.

If you have served God for 20 years or more, I mean really served God, which means serving others faithfully either on the mission field, or in a local church, you have lived 3 lifetimes compared to the pew-warmer or the non-church-goer.  You've come up against the worst in human nature, often by just looking in the mirror.

I don't care what you've encountered or who has hurt you or what your family history is, you have not been through more than the apostle Paul, and he managed to remain fresh and free and unjaded for his entire life.  How?  I think partly because he made it his conscious goal.  Read I Timothy 1:5 with me:

Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith,  from which some, having strayed, have turned aside to vain discussions,  desiring to be teachers of the law, understanding neither what they say nor the things which they affirm.

What is the goal?

1.  Love from a sincere heart
2.  a good conscience
3.  an unfaked faith

I want to focus on number 2.  The Greek application of a "good" conscience in this exact, particular verse actually means a "happy, pleasant, joyful, agreeable" conscious awareness.

A pleasant outlook.  I think it would be well called a "vital optimism".

Lord knows, the love from a sincere heart and an unfaked faith would preach for fifty years, but for now, I want that vital optimism.  The only way to have it is to believe the gospel.  Any other functional belief system, especially one built on law and self effort, will wear thin after a few years, and you will become jaded and cynical.

(I call it "functional belief system" because there is what we SAY we believe, and then there is how we actually function in our day to day life...)

Two things the gospel addresses - two functional (and false) beliefs:

1.  I must do well.
2.  Others must do well.

Grace reveals both of these false foundations to be the shifting sands they truly are.  As soon as the winds and storms come and beat upon these false beliefs, you will experience chaos in your soul.

No, you must not do well.  You must believe in the substitutional sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  He did well on your behalf.

No, others must not do well.  You must love others.  Faithfully.  With some degree of continuity.  The only "onus" is on you.  The only one you are ultimately responsible for is you.  What is your responsibility?  Love God, love others. 

Oddly...amazingly..."slap-your-forehead" epiphany - when you love God and love others, you will do well.

To subscribe to those two false yet alluring beliefs (I must do well - others must do well) is to live in a self imposed, artificial holiness, "not understanding what you say, nor the things you affirm".  You will ultimately lose your vital optimism.  You will become a jaded woman, unable to change your mind.  Oh, you will still be able to gather followers, and you just might fake it till the day you go be with Jesus.

More power to you.

But, if you don't mind, I am going to follow Paul's example, not yours.  My top three goals are to love sincerely, to keep that fresh, happy conscious awareness, and to walk every day in unfaked faith in a supernatural God.

Who is with me?

Blackberry-Orange Iced Cream

...not "ice cream"...it's iced cream.  So, so good.  This is an easy recipe, very hospitality-friendly.  By that, I mean that you put just enough love into it...more effort and time than running out to the store for an angel food cake and berries - less hands-on time than it takes to make, say, a from-scratch, home made pie. Guests like it when there is just enough love put into something to make them know they are special, but not so much as to make them feel like you are trying too hard to impress them.

take 2 cups of fresh blackberries, 1/4 cup of orange juice and 1/4 cup orange marmalade, along with 2 TB sugar.  Combine in a heavy saucepan...

...and bring it to a boil.  Boil it for 3 minutes, stirring constantly.  Then let it cool completely.  In a large bowl (I use my Kitchenaid mixer), beat 2 cups of heavy whipping cream into soft peaks.  Add 1/4 cup of confectioner's sugar.  Fold in the berry mixture, and chill until time to serve.  I freeze this in a container, and then bring it out to soften a little before serving. 

Very, very fresh, creamy taste.  Not overly sweet whatsoever.  Yum!

In Which Sheila Chats About Medical Science and the Gospel

The jury is in.  We have proof that "as a woman thinks in her heart, so is she".  Medical science has verified what the Bible has always told us about the heart being the seat of choice, imagination, and emotion.

And every emotion releases its own chemical into the bloodstream, for health or for harm.  There is not a thought you can think that does not carry with it an effect on your body.

It is no mystery where migraines and fibromyalgia and back pain comes from.  First the cause, then the effect.  We are literally making ourselves sick, bathing ourselves at a cellular level in negativity, criticism, and depression.  The chemicals released correspond to the emotion.  The emotion corresponds to the thought.

I take it a step further and deeper.  I say:  your every thought is conceived from a basis of what you believe about God.

Bottom line.

After spending hours reading over the groundbreaking work of neuroscientist Candace Pert, and digesting the research of Dr. Caroline Leaf, I am jumping up and down in a frenzy of cross-application.

The poet Robert Frost said that intelligence is a feat of association.  God has wired my brain to make connections across seemingly incongruous ideas.  I can get revelation into the ekklesia when I read about sea turtles.  This ability to connect is both a blessing and a curse.  It sometimes makes me darn near inscrutable when I try to explain where I am coming from.

Friends, you are so what you think about.  You aren't merely becoming what you choose to focus on, you already are.  You already are who you are going to be.  The only answer for every woman is to repent - changing our mind should be a way of life.

The only hope for change in the life, is a change in the mind.

I'll say it again:  Lady - change your mind!

You better be stuffing the good news of the gospel into your brain, beginning day before yesterday!  You better be about the full time business of renewing your mind, else you become a jaded, cynical woman who cannot change her mind to (literally) save her life.

No wonder the devil gets upset when grace is fully and purely preached.  What we believe about God is either the truth that sets us free, or clever lies, posing as truth...lies that imprison us.

Scientists have isolated and named the one thing all negativity springs from:  fear.  God has always known this.  He said, "She who fears has not been made mature in love." 

Oh, how He loves us!  How He loves us, oh!  He surrounds us, and He is love and grace and mercy.  He requires nothing from us that He has not first provided for us in Jesus Christ.

If you struggle with the  doctrines of grace, you struggle at the core.  My heart breaks for you.  When, when will you tire of the veil that shrouds your spiritual understanding?  When, when will you properly diagnose your relational dysfunction, your physical disease, your utter weariness of soul?  When, when will you be honest?

See, your brain is "always watching you".  Your brain knows what you actually think and believe.  Sounds a lot like the Bible when it says, "No man knows the thoughts of a man, save the spirit of man that is in him..."

Whenever your life is at cross purposes with what you truly think, whenever you invent your own version of events, every time you pretend, the heart knows.  Go on and spend the rest of your life justifying it or covering it up - it will come out in another form, usually pain in your body.  The only remedy is to wash your mind clean with the Word - making what you think line up with the only sure plumb line in the universe:  God's thoughts.

They are not your thoughts.  You have to get outside yourself to think a God-thought.  Your first reaction is usually not a God-thought.  Your opinion is usually not a God-thought.  Your finest effort on your finest day is not His way.  The heart knows, each and every time you fall short of the glory of God.

Medical science proves that we must be washed, day in and day out, Sunday in and Sunday out, with good news.  Dendrites don't form strong and true any other way.  A topical sermon here and there, brushing up against the gospel but rarely grasping it and examining it at life-long-lengths is not enough to form even the physical connections across synapses, much less a transformed soul.

It's why you are okay one day, and not okay the next.  It is why you hurt.  You haven't lingered over what is true, lovely, and of good news to you.

The jury is in.  You must understand how very much you are loved.  It will be health to your bones.


"...you will do well to send them on their way well cared for, as is right for servants of God:For they went out for love of the Name...So it is right for us to take in such men as guests, so that we may take our part in the work of the true faith."
(III John 1:6,7,8)

We've had overnight guests for the last several days.  Joe and Yvonne Ewen from Scotland, along with Ted Lyke from south Florida, and others who have drifted in and out for meals and fellowship.  My daughter Sarah and her husband have hosted several guests overnight at their home all this week.

One translation of the above Scripture says of hospitality to a guest is to "bring them forward after a Godly sort..."

Just bring them forward.  For a few brief hours or days, spirit touches spirit, life touches life, and all are blessed, our guest is "brought forward after a Godly sort", and sent on their way feeling loved and cared for.

Hospitality is taking part in the work of true faith.  Tim and I, as hosts, become part of every sinner brought closer to Christ, every saint who is encouraged and edified, we are considered by God to be a significant part of each and every bit of it.

There were ten around my dinner table tonight.  That's not unusual.  It is lots of work, but the rewards are absolutely out of proportion to the labor.  Huge reward.

Late last night, maybe even the wee hours of the morning, I was aware of the presence of God as I was falling asleep.  It hit me, as I lay there, that every bedroom in our home was full, two in each one, plus a dear friend who was sleeping on the couch.  All these precious people, slumbering peacefully and safely under our roof, under our watch.  Everything was still and quiet, but for the sound of the cicadas and the faint relaxing sound of the waterfall that pours into our pond outside.  I was so, so tired from all the activity of the day, but it was "the good kind of tired", and falling asleep with the house full-to-bursting was the best part.

Tonight will be much the same.  I'm not sure if the couch will be occupied or not, but if it is, the more the merrier.  Same thing on Saturday night. By the time Monday rolls around, I might be ready to rest "for a wee bit" (as my Scottish guests would say!)

Oh, how I love church life. 

Dear friend, Mike Giordano from southern California, sharing the Word with us (off his i-pod...Mike is ever the cutting edge kind of guy!)

Mike and young Matt-the-artist (standing), fellowshipping with Joe and Yvonne (sitting)

Praying together...church didn't dismiss last night until 11:30 pm!!!

big fish, caught this afternoon, fried and grilled and eaten just now!

Happy men - Ted (giving the "thumbs up, Imahappyguy" sign), my Tim, Ron, and Joe

these are just the ones they brought back to filet and eat for dinner.  All in all, they caught 21 fish today!

So.  Who wants to come stay with us next?


One Year Celebration!

One year ago this week, I felt a migraine headache coming on.  Overwhelming things were happening in my personal life, on top of a Master Builder's National Conference we were expected to attend, and so it was with no surprise that I had the familiar symptoms.  I braced myself, and mentioned it to my husband.

There were no angels singing, no scrolls dropping from heaven, and unfurling themselves revealing the words, "BE HEALED".  There wasn't a single goose bump.

My husband simply laid his hand on me, right there in our master bathroom, and prayed a very simple prayer.  It took twenty seconds.

All I felt, was a lingering warmth on the back of my head.  Honestly, I chalked it up to the fact that his hand was on top of my head.  Maybe I was "feeling" the warmth of his hand, just in a different place?

But I did take note of that sense of warmth.  And I waited.  The migraine never came.

Not only that, but friends, from that day to this, one year later, I have not had one single migraine headache.  I had been getting them every month or so for over a year by then.

Not.  One.  Headache.  From the first week of August, 2009, to this day.

It was such a testimony to me, one year ago this week.  I will never, ever stop proclaiming that my God is a God of all Grace, and that He is a supernatural God, who is still in the healing business.  My prayer and cry of my heart is that I never become critical and jaded and unbelieving.

Do I believe this means I will never, ever have another migraine?  Here is what I do believe:  I have gone for one full year, with barely even a tension headache, while enduring some of the keenest testing in my whole life.  I have walked in a peace that passes understanding, from one year ago to this moment as I type.  That's it.  That's what I know. 

I know that healing touch was also a sign, for that season, to Tim and I regarding some very personal things we were going through at the time - God loved us and approved of our labors in the gospel.  He was, and is, on our side always.

Anniversaries of the spirit...they can be powerful things.  Here I am, at this year's Master Builder's National Conference, preparing to speak tomorrow, enjoying the fellowship of faithful relationship, savoring my friends and family, entering the best season of my life so far...

...encompassed by songs of deliverance.  I will never trade a lift hid with Christ in God for a life of playing church in my own strength.

My own strength and performance can't heal migraines.  But Christ can.

...and I Quote

Such is beauty ever ~ neither here nor there, now nor then, neither in Rome nor in Athens, but wherever there is a soul to admire. If I seek her elsewhere because I do not find her at home, my search will prove a fruitless one."

~Henry David Thoreau

Beauty at home.  Your home-home, your home church, your home town.  If you can't see it there (and it is there....oh, it is there!), then you simply do not have eyes to see.

Pray for the eyes to see.

"They Are What They Contain..."

Here is one thing I know for sure:  you can have an amazing house, and it not be a home.  A home is far more than an architectural style, far more than its materials, or even its location.  A home is the very essence of the people who live there...if the husband and wife truly love each other, there is a winsomeness and a peace in that home.

(from the blog "Pink and Polka Dot" - a fantastic resource for all things slipcover and DIY...)