Category Archives: Thoughts

Toilet Paper and the Denominational Gap

A few years ago, I had a leader pose this question as an ice breaker for our leadership team.  Yeah, I was surprised too.  What’s your name, how old are you and do you fold, crunch or wrap your toilet paper?  I guess that covers just about everything.

Once our surprise and chagrin passed, there was actually dialog.  You got it-we talked about our preferred method of toilet paper etiquette and that progressed into why and sundry other bunny trails.

The other day, thanks to a random flashback, I found myself revisiting that conversation, and, as is all too often the case, the Holy Spirit made a clever warp drive leap to a word picture.

Denominations are like toilet paper etiquette.

Yes, you read that right.  Think about it.  Regardless of the church you attend, the focus is on getting clean and getting prepared to go back out.  Whether you fold, wrap or crunch (although, why anyone feels that is effective…just kidding) your toilet paper, at the end of the gig, the end goal is to get cleaned up and prepared to go back out.  It all comes down to preference.

Most of us have reasoning behind why we attend where we attend or why we affiliate where we affiliate or however you want to say it.  But for the most part, we believe the same things.  Jesus, son of God, born of a virgin, fully man, fully God, died to pay the price for our sin, rose again to finish the work and is the only source of restoration for the relationship of God and man forever more.  That’s the toilet paper.

How that message is presented or recognized-how it functions, etc, really boils down to taste.  The cool thing is-I’ve personally experienced awesome Churches that span the denominational gauntlet and I’ve seen God in those places, regardless of what ever Frist <fill in the blank> Church is displayed on their marquee…if they even have one.

So what if I fold and you roll.  The job is getting done.

Maybe I raise my hands in worship, maybe you reflect quietly.  Maybe you have lights swirling around and maybe I’m content with a clean, calm set.  Maybe you stand and kneel and connect to those who have gone before through prayers and affirmations that have been passed down while I freestyle and paraphrase the psalms.

It’s still worship, either way. 

So, why are we judging each other?  Why are we letting something as little as fold v. crunch separate us?  I mean, you wouldn’t judge your friend because they roll their TP and you don’t, right? (If you would…well, that’s a little sad).  We’ve bought into a lie that says my way or the highway, when I’m pretty sure God is the one who makes the fair or foul call on what is the narrow way and what isn’t.

Now, there is something to be said for the quality of the TP used (we’ve all been in the public restroom that have replaced the roll with the tissue squares that just don’t cut it).  Looking back at the list above, if one of those keys is missing, chances are you’re going to end up in a messy situation.

I’m just saying; let’s do our best not to confuse the aesthetics of a thing with the function of it.

So, if you are a roller, roll on.

If you’re a dancer, dance on.

If you’re a cruncher, crunch on.

If you’re a contemplator, contemplate your little heart out!

And we can all rejoice that we use toilet paper/are in a God glorifying community, as can those around us.

Do you roll, fold or crunch?
Do you have any denominational prejudice? What can we do to break free of being more concerned with a camp line that going after the people who have no camp?
    

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The Ghost of Valentines Past: Why Some Love’s Were Never Meant to Die

(Have you ever had one of those days when you flip back through your journal to see what was going through your mind “at this time last year”?  I have…only, I don’t really keep a journal, so this blog has to suffice.  While strolling through memory lane, I re-read this entry from just around a year ago and decided to give it a little face lift.  So, this years thoughts are bold-ed and dispersed throughout…amazing how it’s still relevant).

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So, I am about to get a little vulnerable.  There is a point to this post, however, I feel it will be better communicated if the mental journey I made today (last year…and again today) is showcased, and for the good of mankind (so noble, I know), I am willing to expose some of the inner workings of my heart.  If you skip the backstory, please read the italicized portion at the end.

As a good percentage of the world gears up for February 14th, the temptation can arise for those lonely ride in bucket 5 individuals (Never Been Kissed reference for the ladies) to view it as the season of our discontent. (Still a great girl movie).

Even for those of us who are single by choice, gladly embracing the time we have to pursue those things God has put in our heart, it can be a little discouraging. (This year, I would reword it…not discouraging…just mildly distracting.  This past year, God has really shown me how a heart set on him can rest and be encouraged by just about anything… gratefulness–it changes everything).

I can’t lie, as I see my friends enjoying a season I have yet to know, a little stirring of desire may disturb the quiet waters of my own contented soul.  (Desire is still there, but contentment and joy have grown).

There was even a time when I readily joined in with my friends in celebrating Happy SAD (Singles Awareness Day) on February 14th (the ironic thing, those who were most gung-ho in celebration are now happily married). (Historical, thus still true).

So, as I find myself approaching this annual celebration of Love, I can hear the little niggling voice in the back of my mind.  Initially, I simply thought I would simply post something encouraging about enjoying the season of singleness or some other Joshua Harris approved sentiment. (While there may be more posts like this in the future, I’ve really learned that Singleness isn’t about being alone or not “in love”, but it’s about being open to love indiscriminately.  There is no one to be jealous, no one to feel ignored or under appreciated.  But there are plenty in need of compassion and time).   

But, the Muse of Divine Inspiration, the Holy Spirit, got a hold of me this morning with a challenge and I decided to pass it on to anyone out there who is tiered of maintaining and would enjoy taking some ground.

So, for 2011, I am issuing a Valentine’s Challenge to myself and who ever else might be game.  This year, I am determined to be an extension of love to someone without looking for love back. (I’m taking up my own challenge again in 2012…maybe it will be a tradition).

John 15:13 (GOD’S WORD Translation)

13The greatest love you can show is to give your life for your friends.

When we lay down our own gratification and seek to love and serve with our only satisfaction being the fact that we have been an extension of Jesus to someone and he has been made great in their life, we are extending true Love.  It may be inconvenient, it may not be “romantic” but it could mean the world to someone.

John 15:13 (The Message)

11-15“I’ve told you these things for a purpose: that my joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature. This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends. You are my friends when you do the things I command you. I’m no longer calling you servants because servants don’t understand what their master is thinking and planning. No, I’ve named you friends because I’ve let you in on everything I’ve heard from the Father.

So, this year, I’m committed to sharing in the mature Joy of Jesus by loving how He loves.  So, think about it and find a way to be an extension.  

I’ll be donating blood for example Tuesday, February 14th.  One time giving can save up to three lives.  

Some other options, send random cards to people, buy someones lunch when they aren’t looking, spend your romantic dinner serving food for those who don’t have anything.  

I’m still getting my game plan together, and the only reason I post this now is to see if together, we can make a difference and just love.

Whether you are single in facebook status or just single-minded in your pursuit, it’s really not about ring on your finger or candy in your mouth…just love.

Thoughts?  Plans?  Share them in the comments, you may just inspire someone else.

Lyssah

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Guest Post’d

Good Day All!

If you haven’t done it yet, make sure you drop by Sammy Adebiyi’s blog.  This is the only blog I know that the author can take a brief sabbatical to, you know, have a baby and the dialog and community double and triple.

If you need more incentive than that, I’ve got a guest post up there today-check it out!

http://sammyadebiyi.com/blogs/sammy-adebiyi/occupymyblog-day-8#comments

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5 Reasons Why Your Testimony is Lame…I mean, Ineffective

Your testimony is lame.  That’s right…lame… as in worthless and embarrassing.

Or, at least that’s the vibe I get when I hear someone segue into one with a preface that starts with “It’s no big deal,” “I don’t want to bother you,” or “It’s not as good as <fill in the blank>, but…”.

As is the case with many of my blogs, this one can be traced back to a conversation I had recently with my mother.  I’m not ashamed to mention when I am inspired by something my mom has said or done.

Why?

Because she is freakin’ awesome.

See, when I am confident in the quality and source of my inspiration, I have no problem sharing it.

And you know what-most people who have heard stories about my mom want to meet her.  I’m 27 and my friends ask to meet my mom.  They get excited about being invited to hang out with her.  Heck, my brother’s girlfriend likes leaving my brother at home and going grocery shopping with her!

I never start a recounting of a “mom” encounter with “If it’s not an inconvenience” or with the intention of stating it in a relatively non-assuming, non-discomforting kind of way.  I never worry about what kind of light I’m presenting my mom in or if people will be bothered by hearing about her.

So, why is it easier for me to reference the amazing result of a cool interaction with my mom than it is for me to acknowledge God and what he has done?

You see, I know my mom and I know who she is and what she does speaks for itself.

I’m not worried about running PR for her.  I’m just excited to share what I have learned or experienced as a result of my relationship with her.  Parents and grandparents are like this with their kids, teens are like that with their boy/girlfriends and everyone is like that when it comes to their celebrity flavor of choice.

This tells me that, as humans, it is natural for us to bear witness to those things that we experience.  It’s innately in us, to shine light on things we are impressed/encouraged/excited by. 

If that’s the case, then why are our testimonies so ineffective when it comes to God?

You see, my mom was sharing with me about how God has been meeting with her lately.  I encouraged her to share it with some others, but she was afraid of sounding ‘holier than thou’ or ‘prideful’ to say how God was meeting with her.  Whisky Tango Charlie!

But I do the same thing!

What is the natural response to a story given hesitantly, apologetically or insecurely?  The hearer feels hesitant, apprehensive and insecure concerning what they hear.  So, if you have experienced this or wondered why people don’t seem to be encouraged by or respond to your testimony when you share it, you may have fallen prey to one (or all) of the 5 reasons your testimony is lame.

1)      You apologize for it

Things it is appropriate to apologize for sharing

  • Bad News
  • A Cold
  • Irritation or frustration

I don’t know what God has done in your life, but chances are it doesn’t fall into any of the categories above.

Things you don’t apologize for sharing

  • Candy
  • Good News
  • Hope/encouragement

What God has done in your life is either better than or falls into one of these categories.  So stop apologizing.

2)      You qualify it
If you start sharing how Awesome God is or has been in your life with “Maybe it’s just me”, then why would I want to listen to it?

That’s like looking at a single person and expecting them to get excited because you’re the one getting married.  Chances are, no matter how close, they won’t be as excited as you are.  They may be happy for you, but it probably won’t impact their life (unless it makes them really jealous, which is not what you’re going for, right?).

3)      You downplay it

I’ve seen so many people afraid to share their testimony because it’s not the silver lining to a story littered with drugs, sex and rock and roll.  Heck, I’ve been that person!

It’s a common misconception that a testimony has to be “dramatic” for it to be powerful.  This is a grievous misnomer or to put it simple-WRONG.

The biggest difference between the “Jesus saved me from a debauched life” and “I never had to go through that” is simply one person is more grateful than the other.

Ouch…

Maybe if those of us who haven’t had to “go through hell” were just as excited and grateful for the grace we’ve received, others would be too.

This one is a common killer of those “post salvation” testimonies.  Just because you’re saved doesn’t mean you stop bearing witness to the greatness of God.  His presence, sanctification and sustenance reflect that Salvation isn’t just getting you out of Hell, it’s about complete restoration.

4)      You’ve been ‘forgiven’ so you’ve forgotten it

This one is a toughie.  How do we walk in victory while holding on to the past?   Wait, no, it’s not tough at all.

We’ve just got to realize that your history isn’t about what you’ve done; it’s about what God’s done.

You don’t share it to build up the Old Man, you share it to lift up the Son of Man, so all can be drawn to him.  Your testimony isn’t about you, just like mine is not about me!

5)      You never get around to making it

The biggest killer of an impacting testimony is simply not allowing God to make your life into one.

A testimony is bearing witness or providing an account of what you know is true.  A testimony isn’t just about bad things that have happened, but about the character and life of the one on trial.

And thanks to Jesus, that one isn’t you or me.

He took our place on trial and now our lives are used to give credibility to His Story…or take away from it.

Revelation 12:11 tells us we are saved by the blood of the lamb and the word of our testimony or as The Message puts it, our bold witness.

If we shrink back, we aren’t allowing God to use our life to build a case for his goodness and the prosecutor (Satan) isn’t slacking in making his to those hearing the evidence.

Don’t hold back—let Christ turn you into the perfect character witness.

So, today I’m challenging myself with this: How can I give voice to the awesomeness of who God is and what he’s done/doing in my life.  Because, as much as I love my mom, God is way more awesome than her!

Today, let’s just practice giving voice.  Share your testimony in the comments-it may encourage someone 

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God by Definition

god
-noun
1. the one Supreme Being, the creator and ruler of the universe
2. the Supreme Being considered with reference to a particular attribute: the God of Islam
3. (lowercase) one of several deities, especially a male deity, presiding over some portion of worldly affairs
4. (often lowercase) a Supreme Being according to some particular conception: the god of mercy
5. Christian Science.  The Supreme Being understood as Life, Truth, love, Mind, Soul, Spirit, Principle
6. (lowercase) an image of a deity; an idol
7. (lowercase) any deified person or object
8. (often lowercase) Gods, Theater
a. the upper balcony of a theater
b. the spectators in this part of the balcony

Considering the topic of this definition, I must say www.dictionary.com has provided a sub-par explanation.  However, this is through no fault of their own.

Recently, Gateway Life church in Nashville participated in a time of prayer and fasting, coming together every night from 6:30 to 8:30.  It was an amazing time of corporate worship and prayer.  Personally, I found a new challenge waiting for me.  Tuesday night, as we were seeking God, I heard a question whispering through my soul.  “What is the definition of God?  Can you define me?”  Having an affinity for the english language, I took a second to contemplate the question.  Apparently, the Holy Spirit was not about to let me run off on one of my mental tangents.  It took a matter of a few breaths to realize I had no idea how to define God.

A definition by…well, definition is as follows:
-noun
1. the act of defining or making definite, distinct or clear
2. the formal statement of the meaning or significance of a word, phrase, etc.
3. the condition of being definite, distinct or clearly defined

For the sake of sanity and not reading myself into a rabbit whole of definitions, I will not pull out any sub-studies of words included above.  To summarize, a definition is something in which an item finds a definitive description and significance.

The question now raised is this: Can God be described in a definitive fashion or can anything claim to lend significance or meaning to God?  We define things by that which they are rooted in.  Can God be rooted in anything?  What in our limited understanding can hope to add significance or definition to God?

So, I have come to this conclusion: God cannot be defined, but instead provides definition for all.  Nothing in my frame of reference has any definition apart from where it stands in relationship to God.  Even “evil” only has definition in the fact that  it is in opposition to the character of God.  God then, to sum it up, can only be self defined.  When He defines Himself as Love, love does not define God, but God is personally endorsing and lending credence to Love.  Christians have studied the names and attributes of God for centuries, as if those words defined him, rather than seeing the definition he provides.

Today, I am (re) trying to challenge myself with this: When I hear God the Provider or God the Healer, I am aiming for a paradigm shift-God is not defined by these things, these things are defined by the fact that God is them and is giving us a crumb to take in to better see Him for who He is.  The sub-challenge-how do I define people?  By limited knowledge, or by the definition given to them by the Definer of all?

Lyssah

(Note: I originally posted this nearly a year ago and was reminded of it today, so I thought I would revisit the post of blogs past 🙂 )

How have you attempted to define God?  

How would we view people differently if we defined them by God and not our perception?

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Holy Crap! Poop or Get off the Pot

Yes, that is how I’m starting off this post.  Holy Crap.  And no, I’m not apologizing for it.  I have heard this incongruent phrase tossed around for as long as I can remember.

I’ve always found it funny how two words that have so little in common have been paired together, but both are words we become desensitized to as we grow.

Take the word crap.
You know how it goes: You say it when you are a kid and get your mouth washed out with soap.
You say it as a tween and get told to watch your language.
You say it as a teenager and someone covertly asks if “crap” isn’t just a substitute for another four letter word meaning excrement, so in your heart, aren’t you really saying/meaning that other one?
You say it as an adult and no one cares because by now, everyone is mature enough to use it.
Right?

Then look at the word Holy.
If you’ve grown up in the church, you might remember this progression as well.
When you’re a kid, you ask what it means and maybe your Sunday School teacher explains “God is Holy”.
When you’re a tween, you’ve kind of hit that not really listening phase, so chances are you don’t remember what was said at this time, so we’ll skip it.
As a teen, you probably heard it thrown around a lot in reference to being sinless, blameless or pure (especially in those abstinence type talks that make up the bulk of many youth programs).
By the time you’re an adult, it’s been watered down to an adjective at best and an unattainable and depressing standard-worst case scenario.

So, to set the record straight, let’s look at some definitions.

Holy, when boiled down, means set apart or dedicated.

Crap, at the end of the day, means nonsense, rubbish or, well, the obvious.

Looking at those definitions, it would seem these words are still in opposition.  Who’s going to dedicate their trash?

Then it hit me—these words do go together and we are living proof.

Psalm 103:13-14 explains that God has compassion on us, because we are dust.

Isaiah 2:22 reminds us not to trust in man, because he is nothing compared to God-he has only a breath.

Psalm 39:5 reminds us our years are nothing before God and our life is but a breath.

Left to our sinful nature and our own foolishness, it’s what we boil down to.

Except.

Except that, in Christ, we are Holy, created for a purpose and set apart.  We’ve got junk, we’ve got trash in our past and there are days when we don’t come out smelling like roses, but in Christ, we are still Holy-still set apart for Him.

Colossians 3:12 says we are holy and dearly loved, because we are chosen by God.

So often, I think we still bring in that whole pure or perfect definition, see we fall short and assume there is nothing that can be done.

You have to remember, you have been MADE holy.

Our response then, is to choose to be Holy because God is Holy and set ourselves apart for his purpose.  Because we are holy, according to Colossians, then we endeavor to clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, etc.

We don’t do those things to be holy, but because it’s already been done.

So, in the end, it doesn’t matter the junk or, well, crap, we’ve done, endured or become.  It’s the Holiness that was given to a hand selected individual with a specific purpose in mind.

Anyone else tend to express “crap” sentiments more than “holy” ones?  How can we better embrace being set apart?

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The World Looks Great From Out Here In Space

For all of you who wondered if I had fell off the face of the earth, I assure you, contrary to the title, I am still very much alive.  I normally don’t do a lot of personal updates on here, but seeing as my absence has been lengthy, I just want to share a little bit and put some hearts at rest. 

To dispel any rumors, no I am not drug running down in Venezuela, I am not running a Captain Crunch smuggling ring in Hong Kong and I have not slipped into the dastardly Nashville Underground filled with Musicians, vegetarians and Swing Dancers (although those are some of my favorite people here 🙂 ).

No, for the past three weeks, I have been embarking on a journey and gearing up.  So, here is the nutshell:

  • A few weeks ago, I felt a strong urge to re-enroll in schoolso I did.  I am now working towards a communications degree and should be done next September.
  • This was spurred on by a sudden, but persistent thought: I should go to Japan and teach English.
  • Which led to much researching and finally settling on the plan of applying with the JET programme after graduating next year. 
  • My little Fern (my Saturn) blew a head gasket and died
  • I began a search for a new car
  • Drama ensued (I am sure that will end up a post in itself, so I won’t give the details here)
  • I have had the privilege of working on some freelance writing projects, so that is exciting.
  • I started school last week (and believe me, enrolling, applying for financial aid, requesting transcripts and starting school all in less than 10 days, it was pretty intense).  Classes are accelerated and on a 7 week time frame.  Right now, I have to prove myself and do well on one class at a time, but starting in January I will be doubling up…I can’t wait.
  • While still working full time.

Ok, spelled out, it doesn’t look like that much, but it has been crazy.  But I am sooooooooooo excited for the next couple of years.  It’s great to be back in school and the classes that are coming down the pike are really great.

That being said, I can now say that I will be back in a more regular swing here shortly.  I will try to keep school talk and Japan talk to a minimum. 

And just for fun, I am looking to challenge myself a little more on the writing front, so I want to invite you all to be part of the challenge.  Is there something you would like to see addressed/discussed/explored on this blog?  Drop the topic in the comments.  Feel free to be as challenging or creative as you want.  Also, I know I have had a couple of people asking about writing lately, so I also want to throw out a warning…I may be asking some of you if you would like to guest post on here sometime *cough**Elaine**cough*. 

That’s about it for the update!

Lyssah

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