Archives for March 2011

Margaritas and Chips

Margarita

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It was a bad day. Some random lady at a ministry event decided to zing me with an acerbic comment and then my hubby stood me up for lunch.  All of a sudden the weight of the world descended upon my shoulders like a heavy backpack of cranky boulders. 

This is the part where I am supposed to say I lifted my tense spirit up to the Lord and it all washed away like a Holy Spirit Calgon bubble bath.  Sadly, my dormant deviant side kicked into gear and I decided at that moment all I wanted was a margarita and chips to soothe my weary soul.

 But, I didn’t want to go alone. I needed a partner in crime.  So, I called Keri, knowing she probably wasn’t going to be up for an impromptu luncheon at our favorite Mexican restaurant, Casa Ranchera, but crossing my fingers that maybe, just maybe, she might be open to a little frivolity.

When Keri didn’t pick up, I pulled up to her house on the off-chance she might be at home.  There she was in all her mama glory, standing outside in the sunshine with her two adorable munchkins.  Her little boy had a watering can in hand as he dug in the dirt while Keri planted flowers. I pulled the Expedition up to her driveway and stuck my head out the window.

“Hey Ker, want to go get a Margarita with me?” I nonchalantly inquired.

She looked at me quizzically.  I could see her mind chewing on my request, “Bad day?” 

I nodded yes.  Can you come?’

“I really don’t want to drag the kids and we just ate lunch.  How about next week and I’ll get a sitter.”

“I think I’m going to go by myself,” I said.

She gave me a long look.  You can’t go by yourself to have a margarita.”

“Why not? I go there all the time.  Besides, I have the baby with me.”

She didn’t say any more but I assumed she was thinking that it made me look like a sad and lonely soul nursing my sorrows like someone from the cast of Cheers.  “I’m going,” I declared defiantly, gave her a forced smile and set off for the Ranchera.

The baby and I arrived at the restaurant and were led outside by my favorite hostess.  She placed us at a table with a waiter we were familiar with and in my favorite spot for the baby to run around.  When the waiter came by I ordered up my chips, quesadilla and one perfect margarita.

I sat back in my chair and savored each moment; the warm sun, the salty chips, the tasty snap of lime in the margarita, and my sweet baby girl who tottered around my feet taking her first steps.  I breathed in slowly and then took a moment to ask the Lord what the heck was going on my heart.

First, my pride had been wounded by the insensitive woman.  I felt inadequate and underappreciated.  I had been criticized for my teaching outline.  In my haste to complete it, I had inadvertently mismatched the fonts and the lady compared me to another teacher who performed more up to her standards. 

The truth is between my two jobs, three kids and busy ministry schedule; I was amazed she even got an outline in her hands to slam. The other teacher simply had more time and was operating in a different season of life.  It wasn’t an apple to apples comparison.  More like a grape to apple comparison and I was the squished grape.

I also felt the sting of disappointment by being overlooked by my husband.  I knew it was unintentional but I had been jilted and forgotten none the less.  The one man in the world I wanted to share my dang quesadilla with was too busy for me. That made me sad and I needed to forgive him.

 The margarita in my hand raised another issue.  Why did I feel the need to make a statement and drink by myself in public?  It wasn’t about the alcohol, because I haven’t over imbibed in almost twenty years.  But there was definitely a desire to escape; to run and hide from the thumping pain of rejection.  Consciously, I knew that chips and a margarita would not soothe my soul, but it was an outward attempt to heal an inner boo-boo that only God could address.  

 And then there was the final crux, my unwavering passion for authenticity.  A good thing, usually, but possibly teetering on defiance in this instance.  My stubborn spirit cried out, “I will order the real margarita, and not ice-tea. I will not hide or posture for any man.” 

I so badly want to be defined as real, rejecting hypocrisy and my perception of Christian posing, that the very act of proving my independence might have been prideful in and of itself.  I was throwing out the baby with the bath water (Or the tequila with the margarita in this case).

Despite my misgivings, the baby and I enjoyed our little outing and I learned a few things about myself that day.  As long as I am doing what God calls me to do, to the very best of my ability, I have nothing to be ashamed of.  And even though my husband stood me up, he is generally a stand up guy and I am tremendously blessed. 

I realized the margarita was merely a symbol for relationship and it was this longing in my heart to be known and loved that drove me to reenact a normally rewarding experience. And while God met me for this margarita, next time, I think I’ll wait to go with friends.

Conversations with my Pastor (Husband)

Man and woman in swimsuits, ca. 1910; she is e...

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My last post sparked some great conversations. One dialogue was with my pastor (husband). He made a few points I wanted to address:

  • As leaders we are held to a higher standard.  To whom much is given much is expected. And the same swimwear (a two-piece) I wore as a volunteer in highschool ministry may not be the appropriate attire in my new position. Clearly, I am slow to adjusting to my new paradigm as a pastor’s wife.  (But if you knew where I came from, you might already be scratching your head at the colossal shift in my behavior)
  • My idea of cute and my husband’s  idea of modest are not the same.  Here we go back to the middle ground again, but we have discussed spending some real money on a bathing suit that represents both our values.  Cha-Ching!
  • When expectations are assumed, but not discussed it can lead to disappointment on both sides.  And when your wife is a writer sometimes her thoughts leak out into the internet cloud, (subconsciously of course) but I see your point dear!
  • While my desire is to honor my husband and protect all men from lust, I still have the desire to be pretty.  And therein lies the catch-22.

Joshua Harris, in sex is not the problem (lust is), states, “The way you dress can either help or hinder the men around you who are trying to resist lust.” So, if my idea of pretty is a hindrance, then I may need to reevaluate what pretty means.  Maybe pretty can include modesty. But maybe it doesn’t have to include a t-shirt and board shorts either (so soggy and uncomfortable)!

Harris also suggests that men play a part in this responsibility to resist temptation.  Men are not exempt from the solution.  And I don’t want to ever take this too lightly.  I want to affirm and acknowledge just how difficult it is. 

Breasts and belly buttons are not evil.  Dressing to tempt and lure is.  There is no shame in being voluptuous and it doesn’t make a woman less spiritual or unclean. And if you see a sister who is in sin, have the conversation with her instead of snubbing her or talking behind her back.  I’m just saying…

The truth is I struggle with this.  It’s not a black or white issue and I don’t want to justify or fall within legalistic rule making.  Ultimately, modesty and lust are a matter of the heart. 

God knows we will get discouraged, on both sides of the matter.  He encourages us to not grow weary in doing good, for in due season we will reap if we do not lose heart.(Gal 6:9)  So, I’ll just be over here sowing some seed and eating some humble pie.

Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini

My husband bought me a very special swimsuit for our honeymoon cruise in the Mediterranean-one very hot yellow polka dot bikini.  It has cute little strings that tie on my hips and I feel like a sassy and mischievous gal when I squeeze into it.  Now, I am not claiming to be a supermodel, but my husband clearly expressed his approval with a large goofy smile whenever I dug those polka-dots out of the drawer. 

That is, until we started a church and all of a sudden he became very concerned with covering up his wife’s bodacious bosom and abdominals.  Apparently pastor’s wives should wear modest and conservative (translation-old lady) tank suits.  But, what’s a girl to do when her mammary offering turns even the ugly tank into a sexy piece of spandex?

The truth is I don’t have a modest bod!  I am, shall we say…curvy.  Every summer we hit the bathing suit store and my husband hopes I will find an appropriate suit to hide my bosum and every year he leaves frustrated.  At this point, I am relegated to a t-shirt for all church events, because the ta ta’s have gone underground.  Apparently, I am somehow less spiritual in my wanton state of voluptuousness. (Heeee)

If I have painted a picture of immodesty, I have been misleading.  In general, my dress is very conservative and unassuming.  My daily wardrobe is professional and streamlined.  I don’t want my clothes to ever distract from the message, but I also conversely, don’t feel a need to hide my body as something to be ashamed of. 

Modesty is a confusing road to navigate to begin with.  I want to be fashionable and express myself with clothes.  But, I also understand the premise of not tempting men (deeply visual creatures), who apparently have a nerve that runs from their eyes to their loins.  But when the same men who tell me to cover up walk around with their shirts off at the pool it seems like a serious double standard.  At the very least, let me wear the tank suit without a burka.

Not so long ago, I remember a day when the folks in high school ministry used to call my husband a Ken-doll because his body looked like a sculpted piece of art.  And I don’t recall him hiding those luscious biceps to protect the eyes of women behind a t-shirt (Praise the Lord)).  To his benefit, he does wear one now at church baptisms and pool events, so I can’t argue that he asks me to do something he is not willing to do. 

As a pastor’s wife, I want to be above reproach, but as a woman I also want to have the freedom to wear a bikini when the congregant’s eyes aren’t boring a hole into my choice of swimwear.  So for now, I will compromise with tanks and a t-shirt for all church events near water, and I’ll let the bikini out of the drawer for vacations alone with my honey (hubba hubba).

This is where I think the church has ambiguity and difficulty encapsulating the problem of lust, modesty and male/female interaction.  Is the answer to pornography shrouding women?  Do our daughters need to be dressed like the Amish for our boys to not treat them like sexual objects?  Is there some sort of middle ground regarding modesty for women and personal responsibility for men? 

Maybe someday we can move beyond the superficial and allow a modest two piece bathing suit on a woman to not cause a stir.  Because isn’t it all just a fig leaf to God?

Whoomp There it is

Whoomp! (There It Is)

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I asked my pre-teen son what he was thankful for yesterday. He paused for a moment, and then replied, “My home, sports, my clothes and family.”

“So, do I rank higher than your skinny jeans?” I inquired.

He smirked and mumbled, “Sure, mom.”

I didn’t get the response I wanted, but then again, he didn’t mention his friends and I know they rank pretty high on the list. Secretly, I wanted him to proclaim his heart for Christ and yet was instead confronted with his passion for fashion. Awesome.

                                           ***

A few weeks ago, my son performed as a rapper for the school talent show.  His rendition of Whoomp There it is was truly engaging.  My fair-haired white boy took the lead solo in a tribute to The Tag Team and owned it with confidence and panache. But it was another child at the performance that ended up stealing my heart.

Sydney, a little seventh grade girl, climbed up on the stage and boldly proclaimed her faith with a simple guitar and a courageous voice.  She self wrote and performed Glow Within Me, a song about her dependence on Christ and the impact His sacrifice on the Cross made in her life.

Tears streamed down my face as I watched this little evangelist rock the stage.  She received the biggest applause of the evening and I have to believe her impact went far beyond the night. 

Personally, it brought up emotions in my own heart that I am still processing. 

Truth be told, I wish I was more like her.  I envied her boldness and strength to stand in the face of adversity.  And lest you think middle school is not a jungle, think again.  It’s a scary place for an adolescent in a cesspool of insecurity, puberty and social drama.  Reputations are won and lost in the battle of Middle School.

Secretly, I also wanted my son to be the one in front of the crowd proclaiming his faith.  I mean he is the pastors’ kid after all! Couldn’t some of my husband’s charismatic for Christ sparkle have transcended to our boy?  Just a tad more Jesus and a little less Usher?

                                            ***

Last night, my son and I took a walk along the canyon by our home.  He threw rocks deep into the crevice and I watched him scamper around and laughed at his goofy antics. It was a sweet picture of a boy on the verge of manhood and a mother yearning to direct and guide her son’s heart.

And as we walked, we talked about humility and who we are in light of God…that we are nothing more and nothing less than what He created us to be. Kyle brought up sacrifice and obedience, and his struggle to do the right thing even when it’s hard.  He shared how working with the kindergarten class in Sunday school was a pain in the butt, but he knew how important it was to the church at large and made a conscious effort to suck up his reservations.

The more Kyle talked, the more I was reminded of my son’s character and Godliness.  My desire for him to be something else…more bold, more this, and more that, fell away in the recognition of who he truly is in light of God.  My lesson to him on humility was really a lesson to me.

And so today, I am grateful for my son Kyle (the athlete), who loves his family, his home and has a wicked sense of style, turquoise skinny jeans and all.   No more and no less.

Ouch! Nothing Like Taking a Hit to the Stomach

Woman's one-piece bathing suit, 1920s, USA

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Someone asked me if I was pregnant yesterday at church.  Really?  In an age of political correctness, don’t ask, don’t tell, and affirmative action, someone asked me if I have a bun in the oven?  I was under the impression that social etiquette dictated the only time to ask is when the woman is on a gurney heading to labor and delivery. 

And no it wasn’t a man who asked.  I would be delighted to receive this query if I was with child, but alas, I am decidedly not.  Truth be told, I think I ate too much the day before and was carrying around a small food baby.  It wasn’t a real confidence building moment, but rather a long and extended awkward pause; the kind where you want to disappear or wave around fingers, particularly the middle ones, towards the commenter.

I haven’t decided whether or not I am offended, though it’s certainly on my mind, because I tend to write about what God is revealing to me.  I’m guessing His lesson revolves around humility, but there’s a distinct possibility sit-ups might be involved too.  Maybe it’s a not so subtle reminder to be gracious for all the dumb comments I have needlessly rendered over the years.   Or, at the very least, it’s a poke at my beloved idol –vanity, which cycles in and out of importance in my life depending on the season. While, I don’t generally struggle with my weight, I do succumb to self-imposed expectations of body image.

Generally, if it’s cold outside, vanity ranks lower on the list than the hotter months because I don’t have to dwell on the appearance of the dreaded bathing suit.  There is not this looming expectation floating around that at any minute the kids might want to go to the pool.  If you aren’t prepared for that sort of mental trauma, it could take you out.

Part of me wants to care that someone noticed my abs could use a little attention.  I need a little kick in the pants to get me all riled up.  I want to go to the gym more, scurry around less, and make healthy living a priority.   But, I am also overwhelmed with life, excuses and justifications to avoid this conversation entirely or at least until the days grow warmer and the motivation to not carry around my holiday muffin-top kicks in.  The voices in my head battle between going to the gym and writing, and lately the prosaic shout has trumped the gym-rat squeak to get my attention.

I wonder sometimes, if   there is a certain age or stage in life when you can just let yourself go and it’s ok?  I’m sure all the men out there will say…no.  And fundamentally I guess I agree on a health level, but maybe there is a point, some proverbial happy medium, when you can let yourself go to the gym a little less and live a little more. 

When a woman, someone like me, perhaps, let’s go of the obsessive hot girl mentality, and laughs at the crappy comments life throws at her.  It’s the day when she embraces the one-piece bathing suit, allows spandex to be her friend and simply enjoys a margarita out by the pool instead of worrying how it’s going to ruin her carb intake for the day.

My skin is getting thicker by the moment as I write this.  My fingers are flying with passion across the keyboard.  But this nagging thought remains… a few more workouts and few less Girl Scout cookies wouldn’t hurt.  And if you have any doubts about my maternal status, I promise to let you know if and when I get knocked up again. 

But until then, tread lightly around my little Buddha belly. For now, it simply indicates happiness, busyness, and a relinquishment of my inner striver.  And, I suppose, maybe a few too many chocolates before bedtime. 

 

The Favor of God

The Favor of God

I hear a lot about God’s favor these days in the church.  Some people have it and others less fortunate get overlooked. The favored few rise to the top and those that lack favor end up floundering in the land of mediocre.  And though some might argue that the floundering builds character, sometimes it also builds bitterness.

I get the impression from current theological minds, praying for favor is a cop-out.  It’s the Prayer of Jabez-y (to use my friend D’s term) prosperity touting gospel.  It’s the name it and claim it kind of Christianity which seeks personal happiness instead of Kingdom suffering.

But what if the favor we desire is simply to be used by God?  No one faults David for wanting to be the guy to build the temple.  Even though God said no, his sincere longing for favor was legitimate. What happens when we ask like Isaiah, “Here I am God, use me,” and all we hear is crickets?

Disillusionment with God’s Timing

Some stories I encounter have me scratching my head in bewilderment. What about my friend Jonah, a missionary who felt God’s call to attend Bible College and enter pastoral ministry.  But due to unexpected circumstance, runs out of money for tuition.  When he interviews at church after church for a pastoral job, he is told to finish seminary and then reapply. So, he heads back into the workforce disillusioned. Years later, he is tentatively opening his heart again to be used by God. In all reality, he was a pastor doing Kingdom work as a missionary, but no one in the church was willing to take a risk on field experience vs. academic accreditation. Or did he merely lack favor?

Radical Obedience

I’m watching the Catalyst updates on Twitter as I write this.  Ironically, Andy Stanley is speaking on radical obedience being a pivotal component to Kingdom sized dreams.  Is God’s favor somehow mysteriously intertwined with obedience? 

Stanley suggests, “Often, a single act of courage is the tipping point for something extraordinary.”  He also mentioned the church would have kicked Peter out of leadership, but Jesus, on the other hand, put him in charge.

The State of the Heart

Hmmmm?  I guess that brings me back to favor. If the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much (James 5:16 WBT), then the condition of our heart influences the outcome of our prayers. If we pray for God’s favor regarding doors opening and opportunities to glorify Him, then our will cannot be out of alignment, but the means to achieve this glory may be. To put it simply, we have to want what God wants. 

Courage then, in light of favor, can be seen as the relinquishment of personal agenda.  It is letting go of our expectations and embracing the circumstances of God’s timing. 

And favor, therefore, is the exact moment when our innermost desires meet with God’s timing.

Call me Jabez-y, but I will keep praying for those moments, not only for myself, but for all the Jonah’s out there that want to be used, like Peter, for the Kingdom.  They aren’t looking for a comfortable G6 ride instead of a bumpy broken jalopy; they just want an opportunity to travel down the Kingdom road of favor.

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