Saturday, January 30, 2010

Judge Not vs Condemn Not

I have a friend who was deeply hurt by another friend.  Friend #1, whom I'll call Taryn, believes that friend #2, whom I'll call Savannah, manipulated and tried to control her.  As someone who loves both of these women, it has been an interesting case study for me in judgment and forgiveness.

Savannah, quite likely *did* say and do a lot of what Taryn accuses her of.  I was not present when the original conversation happened, so I can only go off of what I have walked each of these women through.  Of course, if what happened is true, it was not a right thing for Savannah to do.  Savannah, however, is very repentant and sorry for what happened and has expressed her remorse and penitence towards Taryn .  This, I do know to be true, as I have walked with her through a lot of the mess from this incident. Savannah seems to be truly sorry for what happened.

Taryn, however, will hear nothing of it.  On the surface she has accepted Savannah's apology and says she has forgiven Savannah.  However, in walking *her* through what has happened, she still wants nothing to do with Savannah and has even taken it a step further and does not believe that Savannah is truly repentant, believes what happened was done purposefully and maliciously, and also believes that Savannah was never really her friend to begin with.  All of their previous interactions, which up until this point had been fine, are now seen through the lens of betrayal and mistrust.  If what Savannah did was wrong initially, what Taryn is now doing is wrong as well.

Sigh.  Sometimes being in the middle can be the hardest thing.  It has also gotten me thinking about both judging and forgiveness.

Judging, in its simplest terms, is nothing more complicated than determining whether something or someone is right or wrong.  The dictionary defines it as: "to discern, to distinguish, to form an opinion, to compare facts or ideas, and perceive their agreement or disagreement, and thus to distinguish truth from falsehood." Therefore, when you say that your neighbor is a "good person," you are passing a judgment (forming an opinion) just as much as when you say that the thief is a "bad person."  Judging is actually a very different thing from condemning someone for a behavior (John 8).

When the Bible talks about judging in Matt. 7, there is no verse saying that we shouldn't perform the act of judging whether someone's actions are right or wrong, though many people mis-quote or take verses out of context in this way.  In fact later on in Matthew 18 and 1 Cor. 5 there are explicit instructions given for what to do WHEN a brother is found in error.  What the Bible does say is that WE are not the ones who determine the standards used to judge people when we judge their actions.  Our standard for determining right or wrong actions is the Word of God alone (John 7:24 and others).  (As a side note: we should not be surprised when those outside the church do not agree with those standards and behave accordingly.  Their fate is NOT ours to determine.)

I have found that most of the time those who say "Don't judge" are really saying that they want to continue doing what they are doing without any consequences or negative effects. (Though ironically *they* are judging *me* for saying what they're doing might be wrong. If they truly believed we shouldn't judge, it shouldn't matter to them whether I agree with what they're doing or not.)

The Bible also says that deciding someone's ultimate correction or punishment for any incorrect actions is for the Lord alone for those outside the church, and even to a degree for those inside the church. Basically we can judge an action as right or wrong, based on Biblical standards, but correction is limited only to those who are within the church.  Final punishment for a behavior is ALWAYS God's decision.  It is His choice alone to condmen or to save.  There is a vast difference between saying something is wrong and telling someone they're a horrible awful person who is going to hell for what they are doing.

Even bringing a correction for those within the church can only happen when we accurately judge whether someone's actions are right or wrong. The only way we'll be able to objectively see this is by first examining our own lives and turning away from our own actions of sin in that area.  I must first carefully consider my own life and be repentant of that area in my life before I can help someone else see it in their own life.  If I believe lying is OK, I'll probably never tell someone else it's wrong.  I certainly won't have the authority to help them walk away from it if the same thing is happening in my own life.  The Bible also clearly lays out guidlines for dealing with someone who is caught in sin within the church.  When done right, which it rarely is in my opinion, this can be a marvelous thing.

Judging Savannah's actions as right or wrong is not the issue I have with my friend Taryn.  If we didn't determine whether something was right or wrong we'd have no prison system, we'd have nothing to teach our children, nor would we discipline them if they did something wrong because that would be "judging."  If someone harmed or hurt us it would be OK, because to say otherwise would be judging.

Obviously, this is completely ludicrous.

So, my friend Taryn is justified in believing that Savannah probably did something wrong.  My biggest concern in this situation is that Taryn is taking it a step further.  She is not only judging Savannah's actions, she is judging her motives and heart and drawing conclusions about Savannah's character.  No one, I mean NO ONE can accurately judge someone's heart and motives.  That is only for the Lord himself to judge.  I can speculate based on what that person says or does, but the reality is that only God can truly see the heart of a person.

Taryn is stepping into dangerous territory with her conclusions about Savannah.  She is inviting the same standards to be used against her and her heart, motives and character.  Matthew 7 is clear that our measuring stick for others is the same one that will be used against us.  Perfection is a standard no one can meet and it would be wise of Taryn to be sure she get rid of this unattainable bar for everyone else, lest she have this same measure used on her.  I know for me, when I think about it in these terms, it definitely motivates me be quick to truly forgive.


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Winter Always Leads to Spring

Winter is my least favorite season.  There are lots of reasons for this.  It's dark early and light late.  The weather is cruddy and I end up staying inside a lot (unless I actully have money for a lift ticket to go skiing).  The trees are bare from leaves and not a lot is blooming. 

In a lot of ways I love spring so much because after winter with all its darkness, dampness, and dullness the sight of a bright cheery flower blooming, the feeling of warmer weather, and the promise of summer around the corner feels, well, just hopeful and encouraging.

I actually feel like around here spring is already making itself known.  I saw some bulbs poking up out of the ground the other day, robins are back from their winter hiatus and I heard another bird singing his spring song the other day.  Even the peacocks at work are strutting their stuff in hopes of winning over a peahen, even though we don't have them.

I actually find a lot of spiritual lessons in the way our world works; in the scientific laws and principals that bring order to chaos.  My science background just seems to naturally lend itself to analysing and understanding things around me and to making correlations between what I know and what I am learning.  My mind is just wired that way. 

The book of Ecclesiastes talks about there being a season for everything under heaven.  It is no secret that I have been in a "winter" season lately.  Actually my winter season has been relatively long: over two years.  Several times in the last two and a half years I thought it was over.....when I attended the OneThing conference last February, visiting IHOP last March, when Mark Anderson came and spoke in April and July, my trip to Hong Kong last June, or even when Bob Sorge spoke this fall.  The lift I got from these things felt like the end of my winter, and I found myself saying, "This is it!  My winter season is over!" But then it would become clear that no, actually, just like a nice day in the middle of winter that can feel like a pick-me-up, I'm actually still in the middle of winter.

Lately, however, there have been signs of spring in my life again. What is encouraging is that they have nothing to do with a visit from a dynamic speaker, or attending a conference....these are just signs appearing all on their own, naturally.  Just as winter has an end and spring begins to appear, I am daring to believe that spring might just be blooming in my heart once more.

I have started to dream again.  I don't just mean dream as in wonderfully strange tales appearing to me as I sleep, though those are great and the Lord always speaks to my heart through those.  The dreams I am referring to are those wonderful times when you get excited about the possibilities of what life might hold.  On the outside, nothing has changed, but in my heart I have begun to feel stirred for the possibility of something more once again.  The peace, hope and joy, which have lied dormant for this winter are starting to poke their heads up out of the ground again.  A song is on my heart, and I'm starting to stir after a long winter's nap.

I am mature enough in Christ to know that no winter ever lasts forever.  Though, some winters linger longer than others.  I also know that just like the seasons on our planet, winter will come again someday.  But, I am reveling in the signs of spring, and taking it one day at a time.  That's all I can do.


Monday, January 25, 2010


Here are some random realizations that have come to me lately:

1.  When crying out for breakthrough, I tend to expect that breakthrough will always happen suddenly or at least very quickly.  Sometimes breakthrough is actually more like a climb up a gradual hill.  I'm not at the top of my breakthrough hill yet, but rather than my breakthrough coming at a quick pace, I am realizing more and more that I am making it up the hill at a slow pace and will reach the top over time rather than in one fell swoop.

2.  When people are in seasons of being refined by the Lord, everyone seems to have an opinion on the matter.  Most of the time, people don't actually ask the Lord whether the season is from Him and what He has to say about it.  Instead, they can wax eloquently about all sorts of things and most of the time, people are no help at all.  They say things like "you should...." when the reality might be completely opposite.  I am learning to filter the advice and help through the Lord first before acting on anything.

3.  When circumstances are all wrong in life, I often think that the answer to things getting better is simply that my circumstances need to change.  While an improvement in circumstances is always welcome, if I believe that this is the only answer, I am missing out on a greater work the the Lord wants to do in my heart separate from the circumstances.  Circumstances always arise to reveal the truth of what is happening in my heart.  If I work only towards improving my circumstances and overlook the greater work of my  heart, I am missing an opportunity for the Lord to do a deeper work inside me.


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

More Than Enough?

In all of  my blogging I have always strived to do my best to be as honest as possible in a forum that is so public.  On my blog you get my random thoughts on life, the church, culture, and updates on me and my life (which I find incredibly ironic since some of my posts are about how life needs to be LESS about me). 

Sometimes I use my blog as a space to just put out on "paper" the thoughts tumbling around my head so as not to go insane.  Blogging is like an overflow valve on a propane tank for me in this way.  Sometimes I post pictures and updates on my life in general about things like my family or my job.

In all of my posting, I have done my best to be real.  And so the real me just needs to be real again.  Warning: this is going to be a post that will come across as a bit, ummm, whiney at best.  Read on at your own risk.

I am struggling with my single-ness. 

This is not a shock, probably, based on my last post.  But, I need to post about this again. 

I hear people say a few things about finding a mate: "If you would just quit looking, then it will come when you least expect it."  "If you just put Jesus first in your life, then it will happen."

I think the main problem with these is the "If....then..." correlation that is made.  IF I do something THEN it will happen.  Really?  Is this true?  Does that mean that *I* have something to do with this?  And if that is the case, since it's not happened, does that mean that *I* have done something wrong?  Am I not not looking hard enough?  Am I not putting Jesus first enough?  Is there *really* something I should be doing better/right to have the desires of my heart granted to me? 

Sometimes I also wonder if I have a metaphorical booger on my face and no one is telling me it's there.  I already  have a few "strikes" against me in this culture that celebrates and elevates the tall, thin, young, blonde model as the epitome of beauty.  In that list I can only check off the blonde box.  There is a real part of me that wonders what about a short, slightly chubby, older-ish woman has to attract someone.  Is there something else that I am doing wrong with my behavior that no one is telling me about?  You know, like socially awkward people frequently are the last to know that they're socially awkward!  Throw in my Jesus-freakishness and suddenly the field of potential suitors is narrowed even further.

I sometimes feel guilty that I even *want* to be married as much as I do.  I sing songs at church with words like, "You are more than enough..." or "You're my portion..." or "You're my everything...." and I feel like a hypocrite.  I wonder at times at why Jesus ISN'T enough, or at least I wouldn't long to be married so much if He WAS enough.  I have actually gone through seasons of refusing to ask for this one thing because I've felt as though I don't deserve it because of this, even though the Bible says we have not because we ask not.

Yet at the same time my head (not my heart) knows that we were created to be in relationships.  Not just in a romantic way, but also in friendship.  It's a dichotomy that I have not been able to reconcile; the need for each other as well as the Lord. 

So my dear 8 or so readers, I don't have any answers to my questions.  If any of you have any thoughts or insite, I'd love to hear them.  At the very least, if you are the praying type, I'd love for you to send one or two my way.


Sunday, January 17, 2010

Pick Me, Pick Me

When I was in elementary school, our Physical Education teacher would sometimes make life a little easier on himself by letting us pick our own teams.  He would typically pick a captain for each team and then let the captains alternate picking a single member of the class for his or her team.  I was never picked last for these teams, because I was always pretty good at any sport I tried.  I know for a lot of people, though, these are the kinds of childhood memories that can be an injustice.

I feel lately as though I am living this injustice in a more adult sense of this word.

I am struggling with single-ness lately.  Actually, more acurately, I ALWAYS struggle with being single, but most of the time I can shove the feelings down to some far recesses of my heart never to be acknowledged.  Somehow this covering over enables me a small thread of control over the loneliness that can threaten to overwhelm me.

Other times, no rug would be big enough to sweep the feelings of longing under.  In those moments I feel so much like a little child in elementary school whispering to herself: "pick me."

I have had a more extended period of single-ness than most people.  I have had well-meaning friends offer encouragement about embracing singleness and how being married is "hard work" or some other platitude about being able to give my life away fully.  All of those things *are* true.  But, ask each and every one if they would trade places with me and go back to being single or pick being married, and to a person they all say they would never pick single-ness again.

So I find myself still single.  It is really hard not to feel overlooked, or more at least, the last one in class left waiting to be picked, and with me, it inevitably leads to the thought of "what is wrong with me?"  Today is one of those days and I am not sure what to do with myself when the longings of my heart threaten to spill over and my thread of self-control is ready to snap.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Life After the Fire

When I worked at Northwest Trek, we used to talk about a huge forest fire that moved through the area back in the 1920s.  This fire consumed hundreds of thousands of acres.  We also used to talk about how sometimes fires were a good thing.

When a forest has gotten too overgrown, a series of smaller fires can help eliminate some of the extra growth, preventing a larger and more destructive fire.  Sometimes a fire will create an opening in the canopy of the forest, allowing plants that are not able to survive in the shade to grow, and thus attract new animals.  There are also some plants who are dependent on periodic fires, as the heat from those fires causes them to germinate.  There is a lot of life birthed after a fire.

I wrote a few months ago about seasons of transition and seasons of the crucible.  Many times the Lord uses seasons of transition as trials for our refining.  Often transitions and trials are one and the same. Frequently transition seasons are painful.  At the very least they are awkward, annoying, and uncomfortable.  They can be the "fire" of trial in our own lives, refining, purifying and at the same time leading to new life.

Painful transition seasons can happen with almost every circumstance in life: jobs, relationships, living situations, churches, health etc.  Many people, myself included, don't handle transition seasons very well.  We do everything possible to dull the pain and ache of these seasons and put out their fire.

How quickly we forget that the Lord has LIFE ABUNDANT for us!  We forget that we are loved and highly favored!  We forget that the Lord has plans for us that are full of HOPE!  No transition season is EVER going to last forever...we are living without an eternal perspective if we believe that.  Our inheritance, as believers, is HEAVEN!

Just like a woman in labor who cries out for drugs to ease her through transition labor, we do the same in our own seasons of transition.  We live forgetting that this life is temporary.  Even if we are never healed, our spouse never changes, our jobs never get better, our hope is in eternity.  Our "drugs," of course, are not always real drugs (though sometimes, for some people, they are), but their affect is the same; they help us numb the pain.  Rather than face the pain of going through a season of change in our lives, we quickly lose site of our redeemed selves and can revert back to some pretty unrestrained responses.  These behaviors that we employ to get us through hard and stressful seasons and can include complaining to anyone and everyone who will listen, blaming others, anger, or just flat-out giving up.

Can't you just picture the woman in labor and the myriad of emotions and feelings she feels as her body prepares to give birth?  I am pretty sure most women, if given the chance, would gladly accept a labor naturally free from pain and discomfort (since they certainly can't quit at that point).  Wouldn't it be nice if *all* of our seasons of change could be comfortable and easy?  But, they are not and I believe they are purposefully designed that way.

Yet every woman I have ever talked to who has gone through labor naturally, even with the intense pain and discomfort involved, has told me that given the opportunity they would go through natural labor in a heartbeat all over again.  There is something indescribable and almost other-worldly about the labor experience for these women that women who chose drugs do not have.

In our current secular humanistic culture we are told the same message over and over: "Life is all about you, and if it doesn't make you happy you should just quit/give up/move/leave."  This is our society's "drug" of choice for these seasons.  The second our job/relationship/church gets hard/painful/awkward/uncomfortable, we can't handle it and we leave.  I have watched this time and time again.  I don't believe that we should stay in every situation no matter what, but we are so addicted to our need for life to be comfortable and happy that we have swung in the opposite direction and we shun pain at all cost.  We have lost the ability to stay committed and to see things through to the other side of change.  Look at our divorce rate.  Look at how often people quit jobs, change churches, or dump friends!

Even Jesus' very disciples did this.  Here was their leader, their rabbi, the man they knew to be the Messiah hanging on a cross, dead.  What was their response?  They ran!  They ran back to their old patterns, their old way of life (literally Jesus found many of them after His resurrection out on their fishing boats doing what they had done for a living before following Jesus).  Jesus himself had to search them out.  Not one of them stuck around anticipating the prophecy of His resurrection being fulfilled.  They couldn't even last three days before they gave up and quit.  The second it appeared that all had been lost, they split!  Most of them didn't even stay to watch the crucifixion and were gone before it had even started.

Imagine what these disciples could have gained had they just hung on for a couple of days. I believe it was completely the Lord's plan for them to run and to be found by Him again (and for us to understand that even Jesus himself knew what rejection and complete abandonment felt like), but just imagine what COULD have been for those men and women who followed Jesus to stand in the face of the storm and say, "Despite circumstances, despite the way it looks right now, I BELIEVE!"  They COULD have been there to witness the most life-changing event in history!

I believe the same principal applies to every "labor" that leads to something new, to every transition season.  There is something intangible gained in our character, in our spirit, and in our hearts that we can only gain by seeing something through to its completion rather than running away at the first sign of hardship. 

I know for myself, these last few years of transition, as painful and hard as they have been, have planted something within me that could not have been there otherwise.  I have seen things through the bleakest of times and into signs of new life.  And, just like a woman who has felt every pain of her labor, I would go through the fire all over again to see the new life birthed out of this season.


Saturday, January 09, 2010


Sometimes grabbing hold of a new dream requires letting go of an old one.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Just A Few Chicago Pictures

Brady found my brother's stocking hat and my cell phone.  I lovingly call this "Gangsta Brady."

The photo on the left Brady took of me.  He loves cameras.  I took the one on the right immediately after.  Any familial resemblance?

We went to one of my favorite places to eat while in Chicago: Cracker Barrel.  We don't have them in Washington, so I try to go whenever I am in a city that has them.  This ginormous coffee cup was in their gift shop and reads "Behind Every Successful Woman is a Substantial Amount of Coffee."  I can so relate.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Chicago Trip Highlights

It wouldn't be a visit with my nephew without coming back with some of the cuteness that is my nephew. Pictures to follow.

1.  He can now say my name with the "R."  But the pronunciation is most definitely on the first syllable.  "ER-in."
2.  He already knew to say "Daddy burp" or "Mommy burp" after someone does this.  We taught him the difference between a burp, a cough, a sneeze and a hiccup.  So, he started to say "Erin hiccup" or "Gramma cough."  We even taught him to say "Bless you" when someone sneezed.  He onced blessed me from upstairs when I sneezed downstairs.
3.  He loves, loves, loves, loves, loves pizza.  I seriously have never seen a child get so excited about a meal as he got when he heard we were having pizza one night for dinner.  He was climbing up into his chair before we could even help him or put his bib on when we had this.  He ate one whole piece of pizza all by himself.
4.  He loved opening Christmas presents and "helped" all of us open ours.  He had a little trouble figuring out gift bags and would pull everything out of them, even the present itself looking for the present inside.
5.  We watched the Seahawks game while we were out there as they were playing Green Bay.  Kyle taught him to say "GO Seahawks" and he would run back and forth across the room shouting this phrase.
6. Now when he wants to be held instead of saying "Uppy Erin" or "Uppy Papa" he now says "Erin hold you?" or "Papa hold you?"  It is the cutest thing ever.
7.  I brought a list with me from a friend who is a child development expert on how to teach your child responsibility.  One of the things on the list for 18-month to three year olds is to have them help with basic things around the house. So, I taught Brady how to take things and put them into the garbage can.  We had to work hard all week at having enough things for him to take over to the garbage.  A few things that weren't really garbage ended up in there this week.  One day the door to the kitchen was closed so I told him that there was a garbage can in the bathroom and to put it in there.  He completely understood what I was saying and brought the garbage in there.
8.  My mother is famous for her rye bread recipe.  She made a loaf and brought it with us last week.  Brady had a piece for a snack one afternoon and one-by-one everyone asked him if they could have a bite.  He said "No" to everyone. Then, I asked and he said "OK."  I was the only one to get a bite.
9.  As a gift, Brady got a little kids tent and tunnel.  We set it up and he wanted me to come and play in it with him.  He would say "Come here, Erin" when he wanted me to play with him.  Luckily I am short enough to actually fit inside the tent and even (lying down) in the tunnel with him.  We played in this tent and tunnel a lot during the week.  One thing is for sure, getting down on the floor and playing in a tent, tunnel, with his cars, under the dinner table, or wherever is the quickest way to a 19-month-old's heart.  I dare-say he asked for me more than almost anyone else this week and I attribute it to my willingness to just get down on the floor and play.
10.  My brother and mother both do something we affectionately call "piddling."  Basically, this is re-arranging everything from furniture to knick-knacks, to the spice cupboard, etc.  Brady has inherited this gene.  One of his favorite things to do this week was to rearrange cupboards.  One day he stood on the counter while I got ready and rearranged all of the makeup and things inside this cupboard.  He also did this in the kitchen a few times with my mom.
11.  Brady already knows how to count to 10 (and is even starting to understand the concept that the numbers correspond to something ("one shoe, two shoe, two shoes"). He knows his ABCs.  He knows many basic shapes like circle, star, etc.  I am not sure whether this is advanced for a 19-month-old, but it sure felt pretty genius to us!
12.  Brady also got some new shoes.  He LOVED his new shoes and was so excited to wear them.  He then started identifying our shoes which were left by the door and wanted to "help" us put them on.  I ended up wearing my shoes around the house many days because Brady wanted to help me wear them.

Finally, my sister-in-law is pregnant with nephew #2.  I got to feel him kick while there and that was so fun.  She's due on April 19th and the names they are bouncing around are all really fun!  I can't wait to head out there again, in May, to see the new little kid-o and celebrate Brady's 2nd B-Day.


Sunday, January 03, 2010

2010: The Year of Change (Please Jesus!)

It has been a few weeks since I last posted.  This is because I left VERY early in the morning on Christmas morning for a week+ trip to the Chicago area to see my brother, sister-in-law, and the adorable-ness that is my nephew.  I just got back yesterday and though my nephew, being a typical 19-month-old, doesn't share much, he did manage to share a few germs with me and I have arrived home to a nasty cold that has me out on the couch sick.

Every year around New Years, I do the same thing that most Americans do and take stock of my life from the previous year and look forward to what may be lying in wait for the upcoming year.

Last year at this time, I tried something new.  For the first time I actually made a list of things I was praying and hoping for during 2009.  These weren't/aren't resolutions, per se.  These were more along the lines of things I was asking the Lord for/praying for during the upcoming year. I posted this list on my bulletin board in my office.  I just looked at the list today and out of the ten things listed, I got to check off four.  My list was pretty random, and included everything from "traveling abroad" to "learn how to can."  I figure since it was my first attempt at something like this, getting four out of ten is a pretty good first showing.

So, I am thinking about what I want to write down for 2010....and in a lot of ways it feels like I am hoping for some pretty big things this year.  If they were all to come true, my life could look radically different at this time next year from the way it looks now....I could potentially: be in full-time ministry, live somewhere totally different, be married, be healed of my thyroid/rotator cuff/feminine issues, and so much more.  Most of those things sound really nice and a few, I'll admit, sound really scary. 

All I know is that as my plane flew over the lights of Seattle, rather than being grateful to be home and excited about what I was coming home to, I felt a profound sense of melancholy.  Some of this is because of the winter blues that set in this time of year every year, but I'd be lying if I said that was the only reason.  I am in need of some change in my life.  I just pray I have the courage to make those changes and follow the Lord in what those changes are.

Blessings to you in 2010,