Cliques, Church, and Church Cliques

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Recently, I read an interesting article on the restrictions of having a “friend group”- aka: clique.  Basically, the writer defends her personal desire to develop multiple unique friendships without pressure to make a commitment to one group- as silly and culty as that sounds.  She also vocalizes the shame she sometimes feels bc she, unlike many others, hasn’t had or wanted one specific group of “best friends.”  

Anyone that really knows me would agree that my sentiments are similar.  I truly enjoy being friendly with everyone, but I have never really felt “at home” within a clique.  Nonetheless, I do admire individuals that have thriving, long-term friend groups- whatever floats your boat, right?  However, in my experiences, it always ends up feeling like a bit of a marriage- you are either fully in or fully out.

As crazy as this might sound, I feel like the Church (us followers of Jesus Christ) are operating in the same fashion.  Like a cult, there is a more direct/aggressive “leader” with a following of more indirect/passive “participants.”

I can’t speak for other religions, but as for Christianity, the cultural norm begins with the pressure to have and even better- serve within your “church home.”  

So, for the past few years we have been church-hopping to find our “home.”  But for the last year or so, we have rarely even went to a church, because simply put- having one home, church leader, and congregation feels restricting.

Surprisingly, we feel closer to God, deeper in His Word, and more connected than ever before.  We are still super flawed individuals who fall short daily, but God’s grace has been sufficient.  Even more miraculously, we have still assembled with the Body…with and without intention!  How though?

Could it be possible that Jesus is the head of the Church (us) and He sends the Holy Spirit to guide us?  

Yes, I am being sarcastic- that is not a question, but FULLY the Truth.  Now, God is certainly using mass assemblies of Believers to accomplish His will, but let’s remember that we are His Body- THE Church- and the Holy Spirit is able to use those of us who are not planted within four walls just as amazingly as He uses those who are planted.  We just have to flow with His guidance- like His Blood that is traveling systemically through His Body!  

So, I share this not to condemn churches or cliques, but to encourage those who feel Called into a “different” ways of living and serving Jesus Christ.  

God works all things together for the good of those who love Him and are Called according to His purpose!  Romans 8:28

Boxed In

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I’ve spent some time digging through the box I call ‘Self’.  We all have one of these boxes.  It first came as a gift from the World.  Ahhh…A brand new empty box!  

Without even recognizing, each of our boxes began to aquire…items.  Some of them were really great items like love, care, and fulfillment.  Others weren’t so desired, yet necessary, like boundaries and discipline.  But then there were those items that we could have gone without, right?  Like, some things we have witnessed, some things we have experienced.  However, those will be tucked deep into the corners of our box.

So, we continue through life adding to our box.  Each new year calls for a refresh of the image of our box.  We begin to add really great items to our box like accomplishments.  We build shelves for these items.  It feels good to see them, so we must keep them neat, clean, and visible to ourselves and others who might take a quick look into our box.

Looks good!  Yes, it really does!  Well done on our part!!  We continue through life with our box.  Oh, how much we cherish our box and our items.  It’s all ours.  It’s our box!  Not yours; not his or hers.  It’s ours.  We wouldn’t even want their box.  Ew.  But wait, we kind of like that little thing they have there, and that too…our box would look great with one of those!  

So, our box is nearing full and is a mature box now.  It has the image of a mature box, and we even put God in our box, so surely it has gained wisdom!  Who wouldn’t want a wise, Godly box?  

But without warning, the bottom of the box blows out!!!  EVERYTHING within it is scattered.  All of the good items, the ones from the shelves, are dispersed among those items we buried to the bottom!  Those bottom items must have caused this!  Ohhh, we should have known better.  We should have known those items would come to our ruin!  Our poor box, our poor items…sigh.  God, where are you?  Are you down there?  I can’t see you!  I can’t feel you!

Why couldn’t our shelves hold you up, God?  Was it our fault?  Did we not build these shelves strong enough?  We must build stronger ones!

 Who bumped into us?  Surely it was jealousy.  Did they destroy my box when I wasn’t looking?  Surely, they must have been digging through my box!  I always knew they were that type!  I must hurry to gather the items before they or someone else steals all that belongs in my box! 

Quickly reconstructing the base of the box, I pack up and hurry into seclusion.  What happens now, God?  I love my box so much, yet my box is so broken…sigh.  Surely, I must rebuild my box.  It can be done, and will take time.  A lot of time, possibly, but with my strength, I can do it.  Oh, that’s right…Your strength, Your strength, God.

Or…or maybe I should buy a new box?  A new box will be stronger, capable of handling a possible blow in the future.  That’s wise, right, God?  A new box will protect all of my items, my precious items.  But I can’t just throw out the old box, it carried me for so long. 

Wait, what did I just say?  

WHAT AM I SAYING?

Who am I?  Who am I without my box?  Who is this god that I have shoved into my box?  Have I been been worshipping God or my box, Self.

Goodbye Self.

“Then Jesus said to His disciples,

“If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.  For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.  For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?”

 Matthew 16:24‭-‬26 NKJV

Be still, Woman.

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As I sit alone, sipping hot tea peacefully by a window in Panera Bread, my mom-ears turn on.  My mom-ears are usually used for the safety of my children, but this morning God turned them on to protect my sisters.  

A group of old men (I am giving grace with that statement, believe me) sitting at a round table behind me were discussing none other than- politics.  I heard a few words- Trump, Hillary, blah, blah, blah- but then one disgruntled man began to share his thoughts on women.  His volume increased as he complained about the “feminist agenda trying to rid the ‘male-ness’ of the government.”  Blah, blah, blah- he continued.  I took it all in without reacting…until his final comment:  “Don’t you remember Playboy.  Why couldn’t they just stick to that.”

I’m just going to take a moment of silence here to honor the death of my flesh.  It is TRULY only the crucifixion of my flesh through Jesus Christ that prevented “old Amanda” from giving this man an earful…with possibly a face full of hot tea.

Okay, so what did “new Amanda” do?  I took advice that was given to me a couple nights before from a dear sister in Christ.  She said: “We are not to act or react in our flesh.  We are not to give any power to our flesh, but all power to our God!  Read Titus!”

The Holy Spirit has been convicting me over this for like…a long time, and He even began the P.O.W.E.R. in Him ministry to share this exact message, but I have been distracted and pulled into my flesh so heavily more recently.  So, I am thankful that my sister set me straight with this loving encouragement!  It’s tough when you have a big ego, like myself.  No excuses though- glory to You, Lord, for sending your daughter to sharpen me!  So, I read Titus, and WOW- I could meditate on it for months, but the third chapter opening really hit me hard: 

“Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men. For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior.” Titus 3:1‭-‬6 NKJV

So, with all humility, I looked at this man.  Quietly.  Calmly.  Not with haughty eyes, but gentleness.  Not because he (a man) was above me, but God is above me, my Almighty Father.  With no further effort, the conversation ended, the men gathered their things and left.

BOOOOOOOOM, Jesus!  Without a tongue lashing, Bible beating, or even a trip to the ER?  Without a scene of anger, frustration, or even the after effects of prideful victory or bitter defeat?  Wow.  P.O.W.E.R. in Him!  Providing Our Worldly Emotions Rest in Him…works!!!

So, I want to encourage my sisters.  How much more can we do if we avoid doing it in our own power?  How much time do we waste arguing?  Protesting?  What gain is it?  Why go to men when we can go right to God?

Furthermore, what are rights without respect and honor?  Since when are respect and honor gained by protesting for it?  If that were so, minorities would not feel like…minorities.  Sisters, whether in our home or in our office, we cannot continue on this path, because our strategy is clearly unsuccessful.

Also, as much as I despised the mans reference to pornography, he made a very good point!  We can’t burn our bras becoming images of flesh WHILE desiring admiration for our heart, mind, soul, and spirit.  My sisters, we have to recognize our worth and our power is not in our flesh!  The flesh leaves us feeling empty, unheard, worthless, as if the mountain ahead is meant to climb!

But didn’t Jesus say that we could MOVE mountains?  YES…Yes, He did!

Today, a mountain was moved.  The mountain that was telling me to rest in my own power.  We can and will move mountains in the name of Jesus, in His power, if we give up our own.  

Lord, help us today and forever more.  God bless you.

A New Beginning 

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​Imagine a recruiter calls you and offers an opportunity for a career that sounds, well, far too good to be true.  You have been in a rut for quite some time, and although you are confident this is a hoax, the smallest bit of hope in you refuses to hang up the call.  

Against all logic, you agree to take an interview.  The recruiter seems genuine, but you are still so skeptical.   You wonder:  Why would they want me?  I am surely underqualified.  Where is the catch?  But, maybe this is the break I have been waiting for.  Could this door finally be opening for me?  

So, you decide to lay all of these thoughts on the table, and the recruiter confirms all of your fears are warranted.  You are, without a doubt, underqualified, AND there is a catch- you must be in training for a VERY long time, BUT you are going to be assigned a leader who will groom you into the exact employee they need you to be.

Well, no fancy-schmancy title and a grip of work ahead of you, but truthfully, it doesn’t sound that bad.  Lastly, you ask the recruiter for a tour of their facilities.  Surely you will be able to pull some truth from one of the disgruntled employees- every company has a few of those!  

And you were right again- this part-timer has A LOT to complain about.  However, after some time of listening to the endless rant, you start to realize that this person is an arrogant, prideful, know-it-all who couldn’t follow leadership even while compensated to do so, AND she isn’t even fully committed.  -Hello!  You expect the company to revolve around you, and you are here a couple days a week?  Get real.

Nonetheless, everyone else seems genuinely happy.  They say that the training was far better than they imagined, and they credited it all to their tremendous leader.  

Without further ado, you take the job.  Your life changes drastically and not just in the pocketbook- I’m talking emotionally, mentally, physically.  Who would have known you could have been so fulfilled?

Let me just tell you that this is available right now, to each and every one of you.  There is a position available, and it is to be a servant of our Almighty Father.  The leader is His precious Son, Jesus Christ.  The Holy Spirit is the recruiter, positioning you to read this right now.  I am a full-time, committed employee who once was an arrogant, prideful, know-it-all part-timer, and my advice to you:  

Take the job.  

A Holistic Approach to Identity

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I chose a degree in Biobehavioral Health, because I appreciate the consideration of both biological and environmental influences on behavior.  I lean on this strategy often, but it has really provoked my interest during the current LGBT controversy.

Purposed!

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The enemy told me that my tongue was uncontrollable, that my power was in my assertiveness, that my physical assets made me desirable, that retail really provided therapy.

Well, I have found my purpose, and it is to tell all of you that all his lies are holding you back from finding yours!

Purpose is revealed once you realize the enemy’s desire to use you otherwise!

Get hungry!

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My heart aches for people who haven’t recognized the Grace of Jesus Christ, but who is to blame?

Those that don’t know Him only know the world.

Just like Pennsylvania, the world is filled with a majority of gloomy days- lies, anger, pain, struggle, sickness, death, with an occasional ray of sunshine that gives us hope.  It’s this false hope that the world will give them more, or that their hard work will really pay off- just like the false hope that the lottery addicts have for winning the megamillions.

The odds are simply not in your favor.

But how can this change?

If Christians would start being like Christ- living by the Word, and allowing people to witness His Grace. 

I hear so many people say “I’m Catholic, because I was born Catholic” or “I’m a Christian, but I believe in morals and ethics over the Scripture.”

Wake up call: You are what you eat.

If you aren’t eating the Word for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and putting those words into action, you are simply you, your own god, your own authority.

What if we loved God?

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What if we loved God?

What if we truly loved Him?

Not for what He could do for us. Not for what we want Him to accept. Not for who we make Him out to be. Just true love. Through thick and thin. Through rich and poor. Through sickness and in health. Committing ourselves to Him above everything else!

I choose to love Him, to obey Him, and to honor His name, regardless of my opinion, because HE IS GOD…not me.