For a few very hard years this word was my mantra.
The word means
-undismayed; not discouraged; not forced to abandon purpose or effort
-undiminished in courage or valor; not giving way to fear
But the truth is, I was often dismayed by everything that had taken place, and I did battle discouragement. I battled fear and doubts. I hurt and was angry, and sometimes "undaunted" sounded more like a mockery than a mantra, and I was determined to be real about all of it in these posts, thus the name, Undaunted Reality. More than that, though, I was determined to live undaunted, not because I'm so great or strong, but because my God is, and no matter what this world looks like, He is the only reality that matters.
I pray I live the reality of Him beautifully undaunted.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Why Not This

I grew up in a Nazarene church. Not a big denomination, so you probably have not heard of it and probably don't know what they believe. I left that denomination as an adult, and after wandering through some charismatic denominations, I entered into the "interdenominational" and "non-denominational" assembling of the saints. Now, I'm wandering out and wondering where to find traditional worship.

For me, the issue with the Protestant church we just left and the ones before that isn't the theology. No. I don't agree with all of their beliefs, but like I told a friend last night, no one is going to believe exactly like I do, and it is selfish and narcissistic to expect anyone to. In the last six years, every church we have left is for one of two reasons (sometimes both):
1. There was no place for us to use our gifts to bless the Body.
2. Worship style.

In the case of the church we just left, it is the second. WonderBoy and I are part of a GREAT team of greeters. Love those people. In fact, they are why we stayed. However, we do not do worshiptainment. We don't care for concerts, blaring music, drum and guitar rifts, people jumping up and down on the stage, smoke machines, and roving lights. I just keep waiting for someone to kick and amp and slam a guitar.

Fact is, that kind of louder, flashier, bigger music segment is part of the church culture right now.
Some people say it draws people in that wouldn't come otherwise. Some say worshipping God should be fun. I won't get into my opinions of that here. I will simply say that I do not find decibel levels that are dangerous to my hearing worshipful. I do not care for the "you need to feel good, here's a high energy 'worship' time to jumpstart your happy enzyme levels" style of music. It isn't my style. It isn't WonderBoy's either, and even WonderGirl told me this week, "Mom, did you notice they actually played a truly worshipful, introspective song this week?" I looked at her. "And they ended it with guitar and drum riffs just like they do the pseudo-rock songs they do."

My favorite worship was actually at two churches. One was Methodist, the other Church of Christ. I loved that Methodist church, and if it were close, I'd be there every Sunday. Solid teaching. Sincere worship. You could feel the spirit of worship. The Church of Christ was different because it didn't have instruments, but it was also kind of neat for the same reason. No loud band. No riffs. No one jumping around on stage. Just singing.

The fact is most of the Protestant churches lost me because I feel like they are too focused on being hip and they've lost sight of the fact God is holy.

Our other hang up besides style of worship is a lack of a place to use our gifts. I'm not talking about being in charge or having a title. I mean simply being more than a body that holds the pew down on Sunday. I am deeply bothered by the number of churches whose leadership has death grips on ministries. One church we attended only had three leaders: the pastor, pastor's wife, and the children's minister (and I think she was a family member). Several churches are like that actually, and if a different ministry was suggested, it was usually vetoed because the three leaders couldn't handle any more. When I asked why they didn't let someone else lead, I was told they were sticking to their mission statement and these other things didn't fit into the mission statement.

Here is the thing, though:
A church is supposed to disciple its members. That doesn't just mean a man stands behind a pulpit and talks once a week. It means people are discipled in how to develop intimacy with God and how to live out that intimacy. Living out that intimacy means they fulfill their purpose, which includes using the spiritual gifts put inside them.

If  a church is not equipping its members to develop personal intimacy with God, that church is not fulfilling the mandate given by Jesus to make disciples of all men.
If a church is not equipping its members to use their spiritual gifts, that church is not fulfilling the mandate given by Jesus to make disciples of all men.

Church isn't relevant because of the loud or upbeat music. It is relevant when people find a place to belong, deal with their hurts and demons, develop intimacy with Christ, be themselves, and know THEY are relevant.

Churches that do not equip and encourage people to use their gifts damage the church in two ways: 1. The people with the gifts do not belong, and 2. because those gifts are meant for the edification of the body, if they are not being released, the body is going malnourished.

So, why not the Protestant churches? Worship.

I want to worship Christ in a way I feel is reverent and acknowledges His holiness. I want sacred space, and I want to worship Him not just in words but in deeds by using my gifts and edifying others.

I have not found that in a Protestant church, so I am looking elsewhere.

For clarification:
No, I do not think the loud music is of Satan or even just wrong. I think it speaks to some people. I have friends who like Christian metal bands and find great depth in their music. It doesn't do anything for me. The same if true for the loud, concert type music services. They speak to some people. However, they are not effective connection methods for those of us who are more contemplative.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Exiting the Theological Box...and Dealing with the Aftermath

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I have been attending mass for awhile. Last fall I attended mass on weekends as well as during the week. However, I only told a few friends, like two, that I was attending because I didn't want to deal with the fallout from either my Protestant or Catholic friends who either thought I had lost my mind or finally seen the light, respectively. Instead, I kept it low key between God and me and a few friends who knew I was seeking something beyond theology of once saved always saved, Mary and the saints, when the baptize someone, and whether the juice and bread were actual body and blood or not.

Now that I have come out of the theological closet, per se, it has started. "It" being the battle of beliefs.

We all know there are only two possibilities: Protestants are right and Catholics are wrong or Catholics are right and Protestants are wrong. Since I now realize Protestants aren't all right, then I must choose the religion in the cup in front of you. Some of you are laughing because you can see that scene in your head. I'm not laughing because, honestly, that is how it feels. The logic of "must be this or that" is dizzying.

I hit a point this week when I told God frankly, "I never want to go back to church again. Period." And it had nothing to do with theology. It had to do with people demanding that I take a side.

None of those people asked me about my relationship with God. No one asked, "Are you growing in faith? Is your intimacy deeper? What is He revealing to you?" Nope. Just, "Do you see why we are right and they are wrong?"

Really? Where exactly did Christ get His panties in a wad over whether someone was baptized in running water or a baptismal? Where did He get all offended because someone drank grape juice instead of wine? Where did He tell someone, "Hey, that prayer you prayed isn't in the prayer book. Work harder at learning the rituals because it is about the rituals, not the relationship"? Where did He tell the priests at the Temple the offering should be after the first song and prayer and should be followed by two more songs because that is the absolute right way to do it?

Jesus received a lot of criticism for hanging out with the wrong crowd. He hung out with the tax collectors and prostitutes, the lepers, adulterous women at wells, crazy lunatics in cemeteries, and other people who realized they didn't belong on either side because no one wanted them. Except Jesus wanted them. And I don't think it is just because He loved them. He loved everyone. I think He enjoyed them because they were more concerned about knowing Him, than knowing a theology, and the religious folks were so blooming pissy about making folks look like them, think like them, and agree with them that they missed the Messiah who walked right into their midst.

Does it ever scare you to think that churches spend time teaching you how to be like them and fit into their box rather than how to be intimate with the Savior?

Does it ever scare you to think that people can be so busy learning a religion that they never learn the Lord?

Do you ever think that churches have become so concerned with people choosing a "theological title" that they have lost sight of the important thing: people choosing Christ?

I would tell you I'm not trying to bash either side of the theological chasm, but the truth is, I'm I don't handle demands to submit to human boxes well, and I am pretty turned off by them both right now. Kind of makes me want to make friends with IRS folk and prostitutes, you know?

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Because Love is the Kind Place in a Hard Day

I won't go into the details of today because I promise you, someone reading this had a worse day. I will tell you it was hard...and hurtful...and I have spent a considerable amount of time simply praying to get through it, including time kneeling at the wooden altar in my room in silence because I have no words.

And what I will tell you about is the waitress at Chili's named Angie who brought me my order of bacon ranch chicken quesadillas with the nasty new uppity sour cream. When I asked about the regular sour cream, she explained that only came with their dinner portion but she could bring me some, only it would cost extra.  I told her no. I see no point in paying extra for plain sour cream when the supped up disgusting stuff is free. A few minutes later the manager walked to our table and handed me sour cream. Free of charge.

It was kind of a small deal. Except today, it was a really big deal.

And I will tell you about my kids' orthodontist. I was dreading today because WonderBoy got his rubber bands to prepare his teeth for braces next week, and this whole dental journey has been incredibly hard, and the anxiety attacks have been intense. While WonderBoy talked to the tech, the orthodontist pulled me into a private office to explain the tooth situation, what we are hoping happens, and  the possible treatments plans if necessary. He was so kind. He talked in a very calming tone. Kind of different for him. I've come to realize he cares deeply for his patients, but sometimes strong personalities carry themselves in ways that seem distant. Not today. Today he was compassionate and gentle. Today he was a gift.

And I will tell you about our dentist and his staff. WonderGirl had to go in for her usual teeth cleaning, and in the midst of this suffocating day, I sat in the waiting room watching the Disney Channel to one side, listening to the sound of WonderGirl singing to her hygienist from the other side, and I smiled. Then when as we prepared to leave, we chatted with the staff, like usual, and like usual, they gave me long hugs, and when our dentist came by, he stopped to talk to me for a few minutes and he hugged me, too.

It never ceases to amaze me how good a hug can feel or how much easier it is to breathe with the arms of people who care about you around you.

Humbly thankful.....

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Real Faith

The word "prophecy" sounds ominous, but really, it isn't. Prophecy is simply knowing God's heart. It is asking for His heart, getting still to listen, taking time to learn His voice, and telling folks what you hear. That is it.

For whatever reason, God has chosen to give me a prophetic gift. What that means is I know things there is no reason I should know. I know things about people that sometimes they don't want me to know, but God wants to talk about so He can heal something and get them out of a prison. Really, that is God's heart. Getting folks out of prison, getting them set free, get them living in His Son where eternal life is found. That is always the heart of God.

For me, my gift also means God and I talk all the time, about everything. People ask if I hear God talk, and that is kind of hard to explain, but, yes, He is very kind to share a lot of His heart and mind with me. And I confess, that has been priceless the last few years especially. When all the hard things came, I didn't know the specifics about where we were headed, but I had a general direction. I often knew what we were working toward and what the end goal was. There is peace in that. Granted, it takes faith to walk in that kind of knowing. It requires faith to believe that what God has said will come to pass. It requires faith to know that if I miss it, He will correct me and not just let me walk off a cliff into hell for eternity. It requires faith that He is capable of doing what He promised as well as faith that He really cares enough to bring it to pass. Sometimes I'm good with that faith. Sometimes, not so much.

A few weeks ago I was in Hebrews reading. "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."

I asked a question: Is my faith really faith for things hoped for and unseen? I hope for promised things, for where I know God is taking us, for outcome He has shared as His heart. Is that the same thing?

In the last two weeks a lot has happened, and I find myself once again in situations that stretch me. They stretch me physically as I work on the covering for the deck and put up headers and joists. They stretch me emotionally as I deal with the reality that a part of my life I thought was gone and settled isn't and now has to be addressed all over again. They stretch me mentally in ways I could not begin to put on paper. Altogether, I have five situations that are beyond what I have done. As I told a friend of mine yesterday, I won't say I am drowning because I am not, but I am in over my five different oceans.

Four of the situations are challenging, and I have to constantly choose to trust that God has everything in hand and will get us to where we are going. I know the outcome, and I know He will get us there. It's just that sometimes that means the road runs right by my bed where I kneel and pray multiple times a day, but even as hard as that can be, I'm good with that. I know His character, and I know He does not abandon or leave. I'm solid.

Then there is this fifth ocean. And I don't get it at all.

I don't know why I'm in the ocean. I don't know what I'm supposed to be learning in the ocean. I don't know what I'm supposed to be doing in the ocean. I have no idea how to get out of the ocean.

I am lost.

But I'm not.

Because this is not the faith that is looking for an outcome. This is the faith that is trusting Him no matter what comes.

Certainty of things we hope for. Evidence of things we do not see.

Certainty of His presence, of His helping me, of His not letting me walk right off a cliff into hell.
Evidence that He is faithful, He is kind, He is gentle.
Evidence that He is loving.

Even when we don't know where we are going.
Even when we don't know what He is doing.

Evidence of Him.
Certainty of Him.

Faith isn't set on where we are trying to reach, but Who is reaching us.

And sometimes instead of figuring out all those things we don't know, He simply wants us to figure out that all we need to Him.

That is faith.

I have no idea what the purpose of this "ocean" is. I have no idea where we are going, what I'm supposed to learn, or what I am supposed to do. That is different for me. Some folks call it "blind" faith. I understand why, but I'm not blind. I clearly see Him.

When the disciples were in the boat and the storm came up, they were terrified. Then they woke up Jesus, and He rebuked the storm and everything settled, and He admonished them. "Why did you have so little faith?" I understand now.

Their faith was figuring out the how of getting through. Not the Who. The how was impossible, but the Who still had a plan that had to be accomplished. If they had focused on the One who had the plan that demanded fulfilling, would they have been overcome by the lack of how?

I'm not trying to wax poetic. I'm asking the Lord a real question.

Certain of what they do not see.
Sure of what they hope for.

Certain of Whom they do not see.
Sure of Him for Whom they hope.

Instead of drowning in all the things  I do not know...standing solid in the One I do.

Dear God, hone my faith until the only certainty it rests on is you.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

My Beautifully Blessed Weak

I've spent the entire week battling sinus congestion, earaches, and vertigo. Finally went to the doctor yesterday after giving OTC every possible chance to be a hero. Instead, Dr. W. gets the hero title with his shot of prednisone and 5 days of oral follow up. I do feel a lot better today. Sinuses are moving, and for the first time in 8 days, the room and all furniture therein isn't.

But it's been a hard weak.

I haven't been able to work on the chapter outline and conflicts for the writing seminar that is less than a month away. I didn't get the post done about my being a romantic, partly because I couldn't think clearly enough to write what I wanted to say and partly because sometimes I really doubt that I am.

The deck remains uncovered, and the new gate fixtures are lying on a shelf in the garage, and I cannot tell you how many times I have looked at what still needs to be done and simply wanted to cry.

I did work on the pages for a writer's contest, but I know they are not good enough to score well, and in the dizziness I could make the words stand together like they needed, and sometimes I wonder why I write and if it makes a difference at all because sometimes I think I am the only person who is this screwed up and unsure and trying to figure out the next step and wondering if I am really making use of this trip around the sun or not and if not, then how.

All of those thought fluttered through this week...during my weak.

And it is kind of scary telling y'all that because what if you realize I am just a human trying to be still and hear God because without HIm, I am...dirt. Not even a muddy mess. I mean the kind of desert sand that is useless for anything besides being called Death Valley dirt. Without Him, I am nothing.

And you know what gets me? This God who is faithful beyond words, who can create a universe out of nothing in a week, steps right into my weak and instead of asking why I am not stronger, starts speaking life and pouring His strength into me...using my weak not for my humiliation but His glory.

I can't even tell you how He does it, but He does, and suddenly instead of thinking what a horrible weak it is, I think it is a gift. How can anything that brings my heart to Him and brings Him to me be anything less than gift?

This morning I had to go pick up some stuff at the store and without plans wandered through the CDs  found one I have wanted for awhile. Not my typical genre, but this group is growing on me. This one particular song seems to run through my heart on continuous play, and how Only-God that He would remind me that my weak begins and ends with the One who "spoke and life began". And if He "can hold the stars in place, (He) can hold my heart the same...If (He) can calm the ranging seas, (He) can calm the storm in me."

I hope you have a beautifully blessed weak too.

Video: Skillet "Stars" from their "Unleashed" Album

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Building the Building Supply Store

I made an early morning trip to Lowes to get some fill dirt for a dippy area by my driveway, and while there, I wandered to the lumber section to check on some specific things I need for a project. As I walked down one of the aisles, there was a man getting 2x4x16s by himself.

"Want some help?" I asked, my leather work gloves in my hand.

He stared at me, and I knew what he was thinking: Girl.

"Be honest," I pushed, putting my hands on my hips so he could clearly see the leather work gloves in my hand.

"That would be nice," he finally said.

I nodded, put on the gloves, moved a cart, and reached up high where the boards were.

"How many are we getting?" I asked as we put another long board on his pile.

"Forty. That is 16."

"Are you framing a house?" I asked as we moved another board to the growing pile.

"Building a wedding chapel."

We chatted and moved boards and counted to make sure and counted again because two equal piles should not make an odd number and then moved some more boards. When we were finished, he thanked me, and I wished him blessings and a good day. He headed toward the front of the store, and I headed toward the boards I needed to check out...smiling...because God allowed me to be part of something amazing. A wedding chapel. Kind of like the delivery ward for life adventures with your best friend. Should be anyway.

Right there in Lowes. Building the church by helping out...and getting to be part of building a helping out.

I'm still smiling.

Then I headed over to Home Depot to get some pavers but headed to the building supplies to pick up some brackets I needed for my project. Wasn't part of my plan, but since I was already there...And I ran into Charles, who is one of my favorite people there. He asked what I was doing today, and I told him I was making low places high so I could get some landscaping done. I asked what he is doing, and he told me about his life and how he is helping his family and working hard to take care of folks and preparing for the next thing so he can take better care of his father who is in his 70s. Then he asked about the kids, which led to our talking about my daughter going into film production because she wants people to see God and Truth especially when Truth is hard and God is...not what you thought. And it happened.

The assembling of the saints.

Right there in the main aisle of the building section. Building each other up in our faith.

Encouraging each other to stay staunch in getting real with God because only when we realize how much we really need Him to change us is the door open for Him to change us for real.

Only in being real do we really find Him and not just a religion.

And we stood there, talking about the importance of sitting with God, confessing our desperation for Him, hearing His heart for us. Admitting the truth that He does not need us, but we crazy need Him.

And there He was. Right in the middle of our impromptu gathering in His name. Oh, my goodness, it was good.

When another customer needed help, Charles went his way, and I got my pavers and came home, but the richness of the morning...of His creative building of His people...still permeates my thinking.


God building the tangible and intangible church...right there in the big aisles of the building supply stores.

Oh, yeah, it was very good.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Are You a Romantic...No...

The question came out of the blue.

"Are you a romantic?"

Lady I was chatting with while waiting for an appointment. Watching TV, we started up a conversation about what we watch regularly, movies we've seen, the ones we liked. She is in her early 30s and "although I got divorced a few years ago, I'm still a romantic." I smiled. Then she slammed me with the innocent question of whether I am or not.

Thankfully, my name was called before I had time to answer. I simple smiled, told her I enjoyed talking to her (which I did), and wished her a lovely day.

But the question has stuck with me.

If I had answered, though, I would have said no, I am not a romantic. I would have confessed that I no longer believe in knights in shining armor that come riding in to save the damsel in distress. I no longer believe in that magic wand "fairy tale ending" where people live "happily ever after". In fact, I hear that kind of stuff, and I am generally repulsed. In fact, I despise the lie our culture feeds our girls and boys and men and women concerning relationships and romance. I find it offensive in every way.

I abhor the idea that a woman has to be in distress for a man to find her alluring. I hate the suggestion that my daughter needs a man to help her get through life because she is too emotionally weak to handle life on her own. I despise the idea that women are just waiting around for some strong man to come find them in their needy state.

I loathe the idea that men can never need to lean on someone else, can never need to be found, cannot be a normal human being. I hate the unrealistic expectations placed on men to be superman who takes care of everyone else because they are never affected by what rocks everyone else' world, and then we criticize them for not knowing how to be vulnerable and intimate.

The garbage that society tries to pawn off as "romance" is so offensive and so destructive.

First of all, it tells girls they have to be weak to be loved and they need someone to save them because heaven forbid we embrace the idea that God made girls and women strong enough to save others.

Second, it tells men women have to be weaker for men to be real men. What does that do to a man's image of a strong woman? It tells men that weak women, damsels in distress, those needing to be saved are real women. That is how a woman should be, and if a woman is strong, independent, and self-sufficient? Well, society has a word for women like that, doesn't it?

Third, it sets up false expectations in marriage. Men cannot hold up under the weight of that, and if they try, the world will collapse. No where in the Bible does it say God made man to carry the world on his shoulders. No. It says, "God saw man and said it is not good for man to be alone, so He made someone to walk with him." Women don't know how to walk with their husbands because if their husband is a mere mortal, the women think he is a failure, and men don't know how to let their women walk with them because they are trying desperately not to be a failure.

And, let's be real. This kind of romance is seductive. If a young man asked me how to get a girl to sleep with him, or if a man asked me how to get a woman in bed with him, I would tell him to play romantic music, take her to see a romantic movie, fill her mind with ideas that he is the one to take care of her, throw in some alcohol because we all know wine is a key component to "romance", tell her all those things the songs say and the movie says, and be willing to take some time. Guaranteed recipe for getting laid. And if we are really real, a lot of men would admit they have used that recipe, and a lot of women would admit it worked.

So am I romantic? No. I am not a romantic...and yes, I am. In fact, I am a hopeless romantic. Come back tomorrow, and I'll tell you more.