My Thoughts on the Benefits of Repentance

If you grew up in the South like I did, you are well aware of the term repentance when it comes to the Christian faith. In my circles, repentance was presented as a change of mind and a complete 180 degree turnaround of one’s life. You are walking in one direction, see the light, do an about face, and begin walking the other way. If you did not experience this instantaneous change overnight, your salvation was questioned and the authenticity of your relationship with Christ was put on trial.

Jesus is clear in His teachings to His disciples that they were to allow the children to come to him freely, and even goes on to say that unless we become like a child, we cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. In my mind, I was always wondering if I started my relationship with Jesus as a small child, what exactly was I repenting of? Putting my hands in the cookie jar?

It wouldn’t be until years later that I realized a relationship with Jesus starts with childlike faith, but the journey of repentance is a lifelong process and not something that is necessarily instantaneous to behold. Don’t misunderstand me. Are there cases where we see radical, instantaneous changes in people along the way? Absolutely. But more times than not, those radical changes I have ever encountered are with adults who have lived a sordid life and have experienced much pain and discomfort, and when they come to Christ as adults, I have seen where he removes all of the chains immediately.

I used to ask myself the question, “Why didn’t Jesus do that for me? Why as a five-year-old child, when I first came to know Him, why did I enter into my own addictive patterns in my teenage and young adult years and never experience the miraculous, immediate falling away of the chains?”

The unresolved answer led to years of self-hatred and shame and judgment which only drove me further and further into addictive behaviors and/or simply checking out of my life. My friends and family saw my struggle as I would give up addictions and behaviors I hated only to return again and again and again because I could never fully understand how to completely let go.

I would get the proverbial “let go and let God” advice (which by the way never answers the “how” of the matter, so please stop using that phrase with people who struggle). Oh, and the ever present phrase among the legalistic system, “well you know what the Bible says about that,” (why yes I do – shall I show you each verse from Genesis to Revelation on the topic? I know because you beat it in my head every single day for the first 18 years of my life!)

The system I grew up in was really good at teaching you what the Bible says, but they were really bad about teaching you exactly what it meant and how to live out its precepts within a spirit of grace and love.

Photo Credit: Ben White, Unsplash

I have since been freed from all the legalism and shame that accompanies that system, (which by the way has taken me nearly 20 years), and now pursue a life of joy and freedom that God intended for me all along. That story is for another post as I want to focus on the benefits of repentance as I now understand them. And the best way I can describe those benefits is to credit one of my new favorite authors, Jay Stringer with his thoughts on the topic. He states,

“The joy of repentance is found in turning from entitlement to the pursuit of what we truly deserve. Entitlement is an attitude that we have an inherent right to get what we were deprived of. Repentance refocuses us not on what we demand but on what we deserve. Repentance is faith that God truly desires to give us what is best for us.

You will notice that entitlement and repentance feel different in your body. Entitlement will make you tense and rigid until you get what you demand. Repentance fills you with anticipation for the joy and rest that are to come. As the years go on, you will be less seduced by counterfeit and entitled comfort.

Bank tellers will say that the best way to discern a counterfeit bill is to spend lots of time handling real money. The same is true with delight: The more you live a life of holistic integrity with your desire, the less appealing that behavior, [which] promis[es]release but conclud[es] in judgment, will become.”

Photo Credit: Ben White, Unsplash

Wow! How I wish I would have been taught this in Sunday school class every week during my childhood and teen years! I never heard this. All I heard was “don’t do this, don’t do that,” “you’re a bad girl,” “you should know better,” “you better make sure you really got saved,” “if your life doesn’t look like this you should come back down the aisle and rededicate your life to Christ,” and the judgment slaying could continue.

These days, I pursue joy and I look for where the heart of Christ is present in our world, and I choose to spend time there. Do I still pursue some things that others would think do not resemble repentance? Of course. I am still human, and I still struggle to erase all of the damage that was created in me as a child. But my intention is right, and my heart to love Jesus is right, and my goal is to spread a little of that love to everyone I encounter and drop the judgment and hypocrisy.

I’m finding the benefits of repentance are really more about entering into the original joy and delight that God created for me in the first place. They are boundary markers to keep me safe. They are not a list of rules and regulations that I have to follow because I fear God is going to rain down terrifying judgement on my head if I mess up along the way.

He truly wants to give good gifts to his children, and I am finding I love His gifts far more than I’ve ever loved anything else.

My Thoughts on Human Trafficking Awareness Day

Human trafficking. To see Chattanooga Mayor Andy Burke support what Second Life Tennessee (https://secondlifetn.org) is doing to lead change and freedom in our community, gave me hope.

Hearing Savannah Sanders’ story of survival and healing had us all enthralled with her.

And thanks Edward for hanging with me today. We both missed Laura and knew she would have been there with us today as she worked with many girls who were trauma survivors.

I was reflective today and in deep thought about the irony of January 11 being Human Trafficking Awareness Day, my brother, Philip’s birthday, Laura’s sister Jan (who passed away a few weeks ago)…it was her birthday today too. And I can’t help but wonder what it must be like for Jan to celebrate her birthday in Heaven with Laura.

I

I’m beginning to realize tragedy and beauty and trauma and love are all just mingled up together in this thing called life. For every deep heartwrenching tragedy that occurs, there are incredibly awesome experiences of love and joy and beauty and connection and relationships. All of THAT is worth the pain and loss.

Find your tribe – a loyal one -your tribe wll love you fiercely and walk you through every moment. Every moment. Love them. Cling to them. Be a good friend to them. You won’t regret it and you will LIVE a much better life.

#fullypresent
#peoplematter

My Thoughts on Class Prejudice

Photo Credit: Charles DeLoye, Unsplash

I opened my email today to find the article below sent by our President & CEO of Ancora Education, Michael Zawisky (Ancora owns Miller-Motte where I adjunct.) The op-ed by Rep. Virginia Foxx appeared online December 31, 2018 as well as the print edition of the Wall Street Journal January 2, 2019.

Zawisky went on to say he hopes the op-ed would speak to each of us instructors and re-ignite the reason we work for Ancora, and “regardless of role or location, we too need to speak honestly about the educational paths people choose for themselves. Those paths should be embraced and supported. They should be meaningful and challenging. They should not define a person, they should elevate them.”

I have no doubt that both Zawisky and Foxx are passionate about students and their success. I just wish everyone in education would truly put it into practice and quit making money and numbers the #1 focus in our country. Teacher salaries decrease while tuition costs rise. Semester-long classes have given way to decreased classroom time, and we wonder why students fail and are ill-equipped for the marketplace. Perhaps failure/placement/retention rates in addition to class prejudice should be addressed.

STOP CALLING IT [THAT] – HOW WE SPEAK ABOUT EDUCATION REFLECTS CLASS PREJUDICE by Virginia Foxx

I know how it feels to be the only woman in a room of powerful men. I also know how it feels to be tuned out because of how I look or where I’m from. For these reasons I’m sympathetic to those who are passionate about changing culture for the better by promoting “inclusive” language. But the focus on inclusivity hasn’t extended to the way we talk about education.

Education has always been the key to opportunity in America, rightly called “the great equalizer.” But the sociologist Herbert Spencer once noted “how often misused words generate misleading thoughts.” By placing descriptors like “vocational” and “technical” in front of the word “education,” we generate misleading thoughts about the types of people who enroll in such programs.

Those who earn what people usually call vocational and technical degrees have long been viewed as inferior to those who graduate with a series of letters after their names. If you went to school to learn a trade, you must be lesser, because someone long ago decided that college should be called “higher” education. Considering the state of colleges and universities today, the word “higher” may be the most misleading of them all.

The way we speak about education is inherently classist. When a student of lesser means attends a traditional four-year school, we say she “overcame her circumstances.” When a student from a wealthy background chooses a trade school we say he didn’t “live up to expectations.” We are all but telling people that the trade jobs this country needs are dirty, and that skills-based education is for people without means or, much worse, without potential. We have perpetuated the idea that baccalaureate degrees and desk jobs are for middle-class and affluent people; community college and technical pursuits are for the poor.

I ended up with a series of abbreviations after my name because I wanted to teach. One of the few lessons that stuck with me from all the courses I took on the way to earning my Ed.D. came during a classroom discussion that sparked my passion for changing the way we talk about education. I’ll never forget how the professor responded to a student who used the word “training.” Training, the professor admonished, was for animals. Humans receive an education.

We can’t keep speaking of people as if they are animals. Whether an individual acquires a skill credential, a bachelor’s degree, a postgraduate degree or anything in between, it’s all education. We need to think about the words we use and why we use them if we are to break the stigma around all forms of education. If we don’t, we will never overcome the abiding sense of inequality and unfairness that so many Americans feel.

Individual potential transcends all demographics. It’s time that we speak honestly about the educational paths we set for Americans—and the paths they should be commended for choosing for themselves.

2019: Fully Present

This verse

👆

popped up in my Facebook memories for January 1, 2018. So what happened in 2018 that created much significance in my life that would make this verse a reality?

At first glance, one would think I had to look very hard to see God was doing something new. After all, I lost the most significant person in my life, Laura, due to heart failure on January 21st, then lost one of my best friends, Jamie, also due to heart failure, July 27th. I had known both since 1987 and 1990.

Little did I know the promises of that verse would reverberate loudly through my soul as God DID create a pathway through this very dark wilderness and rivers in a very dry wasteland.

So as I start 2019, I start the year in the midst of friends who are like family to me. I will face each day fully present, letting go of people, places, things, and events that have proven to be more time and energy suckers rather than contributors of peace and energy and life.

I will approach my work with a passion of creating lasting change with people who share the same passion.

And I will embrace the greatest gifts I have been given in 2018 which were the knowledge that I am deeply loved; I am enough; I have much to contribute; and I have permission to dream, reinvent, and not apologize for who I was created to be and what I was created for.

Friends, I love you fiercely, and if you desire to move forward with me, I welcome you with open arms.

Audiobooks

Photo Credit: César Viteri, Unsplash

I have a love/hate relationship with them and have discovered I only like listening to ones that are more in the genre of business and/or self-help while driving.

When it comes to stories and novels one can get lost in, I much prefer to read a book that is held within my hands, pages turning between my fingers, a bookmark or a dog-eared corner to mark my place and penned underlinings and scribbled notes of my favorite passages.

One afternoon I tried to listen to “A Gentleman in Moscow” (which my friend Ginger Claremohr suggested), but found my mind wandering (perhaps it’s my A.D.D.?), and myself wanting to do a million other things besides listen to the professional reader drone on and on and on.

Maybe I’m just old school. I want to curl up, cover up, hold a book, turn its pages, get lost in its story, and imagine for myself all the sights and sounds and smells and emotions and beautiful and tragic moments throughout. And I need time to ponder, to re-read, to go at my own pace.

Now if a person is blind, I can maybe understand the audio book, but perhaps even they would much prefer to glide their fingers over the braille and allow their minds to experience the book as it unfolds. I’m not sure.

#gingerramblings

Transformation Through Loss

So good to see my good friends John and Pam last night. It’s a rare treat to see them these days only because our lives are changing and morphing and taking us in a myriad of directions. We have all experienced so much loss over the last several years and John always asks really good questions.

He was curious if the most recent loss of Laura somehow weaved its way into the overall theme of loss I’ve experienced over the last decade, or if this was more of “the straw that broke the camel’s back.” I think that’s a GREAT question because loss is something we all endure over time, and we all react differently to it. While we can relate somewhat to other people’s feelings, we can’t really ever know the depth of what another person is feeling because we are not them.

For me, the loss of Laura was a breaking away of sorts. It has broken me beyond any other loss in my life – but it’s a brokenness that somehow transcends what humans equate as something negative. It’s a pouring out so to speak of who I am at the core – to not be afraid to venture into the second half of my life a more confident, vibrant woman who will not tolerate mediocrity, who is no longer afraid to establish and keep healthy boundaries, who finally believes there ARE deal breakers in relationships, and who will go to whatever lengths necessary to practice kindness to the world around her. Kindness is something I can practice to myself and others no matter what political, social, or religious upheaval abounds in the world.

Did I come to these conclusions because of Laura’s death? No, they are conclusions that have been brewing for the past decade or so, however the last 5 years of Laura’s life and her death in January were catalysts to help me realize I really do have permission (and an obligation) to not settle anymore.

John and Pam have been spiritual mentors to me for 18 years, and I’ve seen them go through their own periods of profound loss and tragedy. Through it all, their faith never wavers. It’s like a steady beacon I have always been able to look to when my own faith was dangerously shaken.

Our night ended with a question I asked them – what GOOD is happening in your life right now? Ah, what a delight to see their eyes twinkle as they stumbled over each other to elaborate on the good! Wouldn’t it be nice if we all could stumble over each other with excitement to tell each other good things?

I certainly think so.

Mind Change #1 – Syncretism and American Christianity

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Photo Credit: Robert Koorenny, Unsplash

I’m thrilled my friend Don Stock is writing these chronicles. I have been on this journey for the last 18 years and have come to many of the same conclusions as have some of my family, friends, and colleagues.

Several months ago I attended a networking event that is sponsored by many of the religious elite in this city. After a pledge of allegiance to our country’s flag, a prayer full of “Our Fathers” and “Lord Gods” and “Jesus name,” and much pomp and circumstance of introducing various business people, I fully expected to see the guns come out, loaded and cocked, with monster truck engines revving in the distant background (they didn’t).

The “leader” of that group personally called me afterwards and asked me not to come back because I was his “competition” (I was only attending because a trusted colleague had asked me to join her for lunch there). I gladly assured him he would never see me at his rally again.

My point in telling that story is there are some religious business men in this community who assume a great many things about those of us who are serving people as best we can with the Kingdom in mind. I would have preferred he call me to ask me for a cup of coffee to clarify my reason and intention for being at that event as he touts it as one that is inclusive of all business people in the city. As I pondered his method for “dealing with me,” I was reminded of my own church experience here in the West and the behavior of those who claim to be my “fellow christians” in ligbt of the current political landscape.

There is a dangerous religious sect who thinks all things they say and believe are right. Perhaps they are. However, I get a bone chilling shiver everytime I am in their presence or hear them rain down condemnation on their fellow humans, excluding them without ever having a decent conversation to get to know them.

It is during these moments I clearly hear Jesus saying, “You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in THEM you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify ABOUT ME, yet you refuse to come to ME to have life.” [John 5:39-40]

These verses always bring me back to reality because I used to be of the same camp…but the Bible says this and the Bible says that…when Jesus is clearly rebuking us that while we can repeat the Scriptures backwards and forward and beat people to a pulp with them, we better KNOW HIM because HE is the author of the Word, our salvation, and eternal life. When I found those verses so many years ago, I repented of my legalist, Pharisaical heart and went about striving to embrace the love scriptures Don mentions in his blog post (and I regularly continue to bring my legalist judgemental heart before Him as it’s easy to fall back into those behaviors).

It’s such a beautiful, free life when we finally let go of trying to be God and just let Him be who He is, and we be who we are…His image bearers.

The Mosaic Chronicles

art beach beautiful clouds Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

syn·cre·tism
ˈsiNGkrəˌtizəm
noun
  1. the amalgamation or attempted amalgamation of different religions, cultures, or schools of thought.

I first learned the word “syncretism” in my college missions class at Liberty University, some 25+ years ago. In that context, syncretism was discussed as a process that sometimes happens following the introduction of the Gospel to a culture which has its own existing beliefs and practices. In some cases, the message of Jesus and the Bible get added to or merged into the beliefs and/or practices and ideologies of the culture. The depth of the syncretism varies from slight to significant, with the latter resulting in a fundamental change in the message. In extreme cases, the syncretised message becomes what the Gospel is understood to be in that cultural context.

Great. So, whoopee, what does that have to do with anything?

As you may remember, last time, I…

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