Day 16: A Letter to You (yes, you)

Dear Faithful Blog Readers (and anyone who ended up here because you clicked a common tag OR searched for a random phrase or word on Google and clicked over OR are spammers who keep trying to leave comments on my photos in foreign languages):

Welcome (all but you last creeps. Ok, creeps is too strong and you are welcome if you promise to read the post before you leave your spammy comment which I promise to not read).

Three things are very clear tonight.

  1. I am in a little bit of a silly mood.
  2. My high school letter writing technique of an abundance of parentheses is back.
  3. This post is not about rest (or is it?).

I started a post, trashed it, started another post, trashed it, got lost in my friend’s blog for awhile, checked Facebook, and here we are.

The 31 Days of Rest series is really difficult, especially when I’ve been running to the edges with life, leaving very thin margins, going to bed late and getting up early, and spending almost every evening at the computer working on the blog and other job-like tasks (but they’re all volunteer-based). My weekends have been filled with trying to get caught up. And I watched one 2 hour tv movie last Sunday and then felt like I wasted all this time, not because I thought that was too much tv, but because I have so much to do!

Yesterday, I didn’t post about rest, because I wanted to spend some time promoting Mary DeMuth’s new book. But, Monday? I took Monday off on purpose. There were a few other deadlines that had to be met. I had a little bit of reading to finish up before Lead School at 6am Tuesday morning. I wanted needed to get to bed early (which didn’t quite happen, but it was earlier than most of the month). At some point in the evening, I made the conscious decision to abandon my post (haha, get it?) and take the night off as far as the series was concerned.

The pressure to write meaningful posts is huge this month. I started with so many amazing comments from so many of you (including my awesome mom) about how much a series on rest would minister to you or to others. But, I’m not Ann Voskamp, Mary DeMuth, Lisa-Jo Baker, Emily Freeman, Sarah Markley…(whoops, I got sidetracked trying to figure out other amazing writers that I know. And yes, I left out a TON). When I try to write serious posts, I end up sounding a little bit phony (at least to myself), because – HELLO – I don’t have any of this crap figured out. I’m screwing stuff up on a daily basis. Like I said earlier, I’m trying to write about rest and not getting any of it myself this month.

I mentioned having a reading assignment for Lead School. For this Christian high school and college graduate, Lead School is kind of a refresher course in all things apologetics. Sort of. Not exactly.  But a little bit. This explains it better. It reminds me of some of my Bible classes, only this time I want to be there. There, that may be the perfect description.

This week’s class was on the Gospel. The main takeaway that has stuck with me for the past 40+ hours, is that our response to the Gospel is not a “one and done” event. We are saved only once. But we should be continually preaching the Gospel to ourselves and each other daily. What that means in light of my concerns over rest and writing the most amazing blog post that will refresh your spirit is this (and even here I may mess this up):

I have been saved by the grace of God, which gives me pardon and forgiveness that I did not/do not deserve. Even without deserving it, God gave it anyway. Jesus willingly gave up his life to pay the punishment that my wrongdoing did/does deserve. I have been adopted into the family of God. I am no longer a slave to sin; I am a child of God. I am freed from having to perform perfectly to be accepted, to be seen as valuable. I need to remind myself again that I write to glorify Him using the gifts I’ve been given. It is not to impress others. It is not because God needs me to spread the message of his grace. It is not to win accolades or fame or a book deal. Out of my love for God, as puny and weak as it is, I want to share this Gospel with others. In reminding you of the Gospel, I remind myself.

Come to think of it, I guess if we’re looking for somewhere to rest, the Gospel is about the safest place there is.

What do you know, today was day 16 of 31 Days of Rest. I didn’t expect we’d end up here when I began. Huh.
Tune in next time, when you never know what I’ll say. 🙂

Them, there, are Virginia mountains, them are.

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Taking Down the Walls

The Wall Around Your HeartHi friends! Today we’re taking a brief break from the Rest series, because I am so excited about the release of The Wall Around Your Heart!

The premise of this book is that pesky wall around your heart, the impenetrable fortress you vow to build higher and higher so no one can break in. When we’re hurt, we protect. We wall off. We retreat. We leave. We falsely believe that life is too painful now, and leaving relationships will protect us from further pain.  – Mary DeMuth, The Wall Around Your Heart

We all do it. We get in a friendship or love relationship or business partnership and end up hurt. Sometimes the hurt is our own fault (admit it, sometimes it is), often the hurt comes from the other party without meaning to (their mess collides with your mess…), and even, at times, we find we have run into someone deliberately bent on hurting others. Regardless of how it happens, when we get hurt, our instinct is to protect ourselves from letting it happen again. And so we build walls.

Using the roadmap of the Lord’s Prayer, Mary DeMuth walks us through how Jesus will pull down those walls through prayer and in community. She even addresses how to protect ourselves from those “wolves in sheep clothing,” and still keep ourselves open to healing community.

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The Wall Around Your Heart is written in an easy-to-read style, with many of Mary’s personal stories interjected throughout. She starts with the Scripture of the Lord’s Prayer as her base, but also includes other Scripture references for further study. Several places in the book have prayers to guide you to pray for specific circumstances and the end of every chapter includes questions to help you grow in being openhearted.

I highly recommend this book to people who have been hurt by community, who are nursing raw relational wounds, with freshly built walls. I strongly suggest this book to people who have scars from years of hurt, whose walls are tall and deep. God has plans to break through all of these. Let’s together declare, “Take down the bricks, whatever it takes,” and find the sweetness of community on the other side.

If you have a wall firmly built around your heart, ask Jesus, the great gateway, to make a doorway through. He can. He is the gate. He is the avenue leading toward a rich and satisfying life—not a stingy, walled-off life.  – Mary DeMuth, The Wall Around Your Heart

You can buy The Wall Around Your Heart on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, as well as in local stores. If you don’t see it on the shelves, ask if they can order a copy for you.

If The Wall Around Your Heart sounds like a book that would help others you know, would you share this review and encourage them to check it out?

One final note:  Mary DeMuth has another book expected to release early next year. Not Marked: Finding Hope and Healing after Sexual Abuse was recently crowd-funded after traditional publishers deemed it too risky an investment. From what I’ve heard of it so far, I believe this book will minister to many hurting people marginalized by shame and fear of being marked. Pray for that book and for Mary as she has a lot of work ahead of her to prepare that for release.

Day 12: Cracked Pedestals

Sitting by Dad & my sister on our big arm chair. Christmas 1975.

Sitting by Dad & my sister on our big arm chair. Christmas 1975.

Today, I’m taking a rest from the 31 Day series, to post about a great book that’s coming out on Tuesday, The Wall Around Your Heart by Mary DeMuth. (I may have mentioned it before). I’m writing over at Open Hearted Power, 31 Days of open hearted living:

Cracked Pedestals

My Dad was pretty awesome, but he was also a little bit scary. The good kind of scary, y’know? We’d have friends sleep over, and Mom would tell us to be quiet and go to bed, but as girls do, we’d whisper and giggle in the dark until Dad’s stern voice called up the stairs, “Girrls…” Immediate silence would ensue, because we knew that was a voice of authority, a voice to be obeyed, a voice not to be reckoned with. That awe we had for Dad was good for getting excited children to sleep and to behave in public, but bad in the sense that it seemed that everything Dad did was perfect. Without ever planning to, I put Dad up on a pretty tall pedestal most of my growing up years. I suppose, somewhere inside, I knew Dad was human, which meant he sinned and, thus, was not perfect, but I never stopped to think that through realistically. He was Dad.

There came a time in my teen years, when the pedestal cracked…

Would you join me at Open Hearted Power for the rest of the story? Cracked Pedestals

I’ll be back tomorrow to continue the series on rest.
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What I learned in September: nerd edition

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On my birthday, I managed to break my glasses while I was on my last pair of contacts. I looked nerdier than usual for a few days until I discovered I could crazy glue my glasses together. The first attempt worked until I took my glasses off to clean them and they fell into 2 pieces again. On the second attempt, I got them to stick, then poured glue all around the outer edge of the crack to be sure it was a solid connection. They did stick to my nose briefly, but no lasting harm. 😀

Anyway, September was a whirlwind and October looks to be doubly so:

On to a few things I learned in September. These are more about things I discovered on YouTube. Enjoy.

The Cute: A dog who loves to play in the leaves. Perfect for fall.

The Inspirational: Made Alive by Citizens. We sang this in Karis Church and I loved it right away.

The Voice: I found out my friend’s brother, John Travis, auditioned for The Voice. His audition hasn’t been shown yet, so we’re hoping to see it on Monday or Tuesday this week. #fingerscrossed. Here’s a recording of him from a hometown competition.

The Useful: Skitch 2.0 for my Apple friends. It looks awesome and I hope Evernote will bring it to the Android platform soon.

The Bizarre, but Catchy: I’m sure there’s a small handful of people who have not been exposed to either of these musical beauties. These songs will get in your head and not let go. Fair warning.

What Does the Fox Say? or What the Fox Say?

Dumb Ways to Die. or a song your 5-year-old will want to sing to her classmate, much to your horror. #coworkerproblem

I hear there’s a My Little Pony version of Dumb Ways to Die, but you’ll have to search for it yourself, if you really care.

Of course, I could have included the #hashtag sketch, but… #toocliche #justafad #whouseshashtagsanyway #notgonnadoit

Any good YouTube videos you’re dying to share?

 

Pray Like This

I’ve mentioned once or twice (maybe three times?) about how I’m on this launch team for The Wall Around Your Heart, right?

Right.

See, I’m so good at this, that even though some of us on the launch team decided to blog through one chapter every Monday, I waited until Sunday night to even begin to put my thoughts down in concrete form.

I’m know. I’m brill.

Wall Around Your Heart Launch Team

What I’m loving (and sort of secretly hating) about the challenge of promoting a book this book, is that every day that goes by, I’m having a mirror held up to my behavior and thoughts and friendships (or lack thereof). I don’t think it quite works this way, but I almost envision God saying, “Oh, you want to promote a book on community, do you? And you say you’re in missional community at church, are you? And this is a book about how community hurts and wounds and betrays, but you’ll learn how to come to me and in the community I give you to find healing from those hurts, is it? Well, let’s get the hurtin’ on!” (See, that sounds snippy and vindictive and God is just not like that, so this is clearly not what He’s saying.)

And yet, in the three weeks since I learned I made the launch team, it’s all coming out of the woodwork. Tough conversations, stretched friendships, messy community, slights from a friend, fresh reminders of my past screw-ups in community, etc.  I guess it makes the lessons easier to learn because I’m applying them right away, but it feels like the hard way to go about it.

All this to say, guess what my pastor preached on this past Sunday morning, guess what my church is in the middle of a 40 day challenge on, guess what I’ve been hearing God telling me I need to work on in my marriage, AND guess what Chapter One of The Wall Around Your Heart is all about?

In the opening of Chapter One, as Mary begins to walk us through the Lord’s Prayer, we read these words:

Jesus started His famous prayer with three words: “Pray like this.”

Not gossip like this. Not tell everyone else the other person’s issues like this. Not stew on the issue until your heart embitters like this. Not grumble like this. Not avoid like this.

“Pray like this.”

So simple. Praying is easy, right; just talking to God. I started praying when I was 7 or 8: “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep…” or “God is great, God is good, let us thank Him for this food…” How wonderful that Jesus understood we would need to be guided in how to pray, so He gave us His example, “Pray like this.”

And yet…don’t you sometimes have a hard time praying? I do. I get distracted, sleepy, interrupted, too busy, or at times too stubborn in my sin. It’s sometimes the last thing on my mind, when it should become first. Jesus gently reminds us, “Pray like this…”

I get annoyed at someone in the office – Pray like this.

My husband does something I think is inconsiderate – Pray like This.

A friend says something hurtful or her silence causes pain – Pray Like This.

I see someone hurting others – Pray Like This.

Someone does something I deem thoughtless, careless, or idiotic – Pray. Like. This.

Dear friend, we must be praying. We need to pray when someone hurts us. We need to pray when we hurt others.

One great thing from Chapter One of The Wall Around Your Heart is that Mary walks us through where to begin with prayer. She gives us a place to start, a mindset to have as we begin to pray for hurts and for people who hurt.

Of those starting points, the one I’m most struggling with is to begin seeing difficult relationships as gifts. This is something I will most likely bring up again soon, but for now, I leave you with a great quote from Chapter One:

gifts_gutsier_stronger

I’m ready to become gutsier and stronger. Are you? Together, let’s start remembering to go to prayer in these tough situations, in our difficult relationships.

“Pray Like This” is an invitation from Jesus to take your difficult relationships and place them in His hands.

I’m blogging through The Wall Around Your Heart, to be released October 15.  You can also pre-order the book on Amazon.

I’m linking up with:

Flowing Faith     

Wall Builders

In my freshman year of college I worked for a semester in the cafeteria dishroom. It was pretty nasty, as you may imagine. I don’t remember much about it except the gross things college students do with leftover food, the steam from the dishwasher, one epic food fight, and an odd conversation with a cute upperclassman.

He observed correctly that I had never been in a relationship before. After confirming it was true, I asked how he could tell. It was a badge of shame for me rather than something to be excited about. Of course I’d wished to have dated in high school, but no one ever seemed interested in me that way.

His response has always stayed with me:  Because I didn’t have any walls up as I would have if my heart had been broken.

A few years later, I finally understood his comment and then how I wished I could go back to those innocent, pre-wall days.

Everybody has walls. At least, everyone who has been in relationship with other people has built walls around their heart. Even by my freshman year, I had some walls from girlfriends who betrayed me or left me.

When we are hurt by course words, betrayal, careless actions, and sinful behavior from people we are close to, our gut reaction is to build walls to keep ourselves from being hurt again.

Those walls, however, end up preventing our hearts from opening up to others. The walls we build to protect ourselves become barriers that keep us from loving and being loved. Through Jesus, we can learn to love the people who hurt us.

Jesus Open Heart Example

I’m reading through The Wall Around Your Heart, which will be released in October. In it, author Mary DeMuth takes us on a journey using the Lord’s Prayer as “our treasure map. The obstacles are our hearts and the pain inflicted by others. But the outcome will be freedom, joy, peace, healing, hope, and our fortress wall broken down.” 

Who doesn’t want an outcome like that?

Would you join me here each Monday as I blog through the chapters of the book and we work together to stop being wall builders? You can also pre-order the book on Amazon.

Here is Mary’s hope for you as you read this book:

My heart for you in this journey we’ll be taking together is this: be loved. Be wildly and audaciously loved. Give what you receive. See others as Jesus sees you. Settle your worth. Rest in God’s compassion. And as you choose to believe His favor, your life won’t be able to help spilling love, compassion, and forgiveness to everyone you meet.

I’m linking up with:

Flowing Faith

A little intro to The Wall Around Your Heart

gifts_gutsier_stronger

Mary DeMuth’s latest book, The Wall Around Your Heart, is set to release in October, but I can’t wait ’til then to tell you a little about it. In my very limited spare time, I’ve been eagerly devouring an advance electronic copy and I’ve got to tell you – it is so good.

Hard, too, though. There are some challenging parts, oh yes. My first clue was the promo video, when Mary says, “the very community that breaks you is the avenue by which God heals you.” Oy.

Community is hard. We, in Karis, often say community is messy. But there’s good in the mess, there’s joy and comfort, and fellowship. I like how Mary says to view the difficulty in community as gifts:

When we have difficult relationships, God often uses them as gifts in our lives—to shape us, conform us to His Son, and make us gutsier and stronger.

We can be thankful for these gifts that God has given us. Here’s to staying in community and working through the tough things together. Here’s to being gutsier and stronger!

I’m looking forward to sharing more about The Wall Around Your Heart as I get further into it. Stay tuned!

 

On a personal note

My poor neglected blog readers. I’m so sorry. Since I don’t have a more serious post ready to go, here’s a brief update on my life lately.

Last week, my husband and I were in Dallas. Here’s a peek at a few things we go to do:

Tom w/Chuck Swindoll

We met Chuck Swindoll. He was so kind and even autographed a book for Tom. I got a little emotional after I told him how my dad used to listen to him on the radio when I was a kid. I essentially grew up listening to Chuck Swindoll’s voice.

plane

We went flying in a tiny Cessna 182! I had fun taking photos from the back seat. Here are a few of my favorites (I only took 170+):

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Tom got to fly the plane over Dallas airspace! It was a little crazy, but so fun. Here’s Tom with his cousin, the pilot, and his plane.

cousins

The real reason we were in Dallas was for the Mac Tools Tool Fair. Part of it included the Macademy Awards. I know, right? Tom got one award that we knew about, but it shocked him to find out that he was honored with the Founder’s Award for volunteer work in his community.

FoundersAward

Here we are chatting with Brett Shaw, president of Mac Tools, and totally ignoring Chip Foose, reality TV host of Overhaulin’ (sorry, Chip!).

We had a great trip!

We returned home and settled into a normal routine until Wednesday. That’s when author Mary DeMuth shared a raw, honest, breathtaking post, How do you forgive a sexual abuser? By writing a letter, where she wrote an open letter to the two brothers who molested her as a child. This post rocked me – not just because of the audacity of someone to harm a child like that, but the healing and forgiveness that oozes from Mary’s words. She tells these two brothers:

I forgive you.

My mountain of sins toward a holy God dwarfs the molehills you enacted against me.

Man, that’s powerful stuff. And you just can’t say that in your own strength. That comes from someone who is leaning wholeheartedly on God. Amazing.

I also may have the opportunity to do some blogging for World Help. That offer just came tonight, so I’m curious to learn more. World Help is a faith-based humanitarian organization. They’re involved with child sponsorships, church planting, clean water projects, a baby rescue operation and so much more. Tom and I have known about World Help since its infancy when we lived in Virginia. It’s exciting to see how much it has grown.

Thanks for following along with this personal update. I’ll leave you with a nice shot of Tom and me all dressed up for the Macademy Awards (oh, and there was a red carpet, too!). And since no one took a full length shot of me, these were the awesome shoes I wore! 🙂

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  • Hi, I'm Janice. I'm part bookworm and part creative. I love both science and music (and the science of music). I'm stumbling around trying to grow closer to God. Click the photo to read more about me.

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