Will You Please Pay Attention?

After a 10-month absence, I’m not quite sure yet if I made a mistake getting back on Facebook. There is a generation who were youngsters during the birth pains of social media, who are now adults reaping the consequences of being able to share everything and anything in what my daughter Sarah says, is a “socially aggressive” environment.

A few months back I came across multiple articles that found their way on to major news sites because apparently they were floating around the internet and went “viral”. They were young-er moms posting pictures of themselves during and post pregnancy. I guess they wanted us all to know they were expecting and consequently delivered a bundle of joy. The topic of these articles however was not the babies, but rather what the babies caused … stretch marks and scars. Reading the posts, it appears that they just wanted to let other moms out there know that their bodies were A-Okay.

My immediate thought, “Duh?”

Us pre-social media moms know this and understand that biologically, it’s just part of growing a baby. During pregnancy our bodies are put through the ringer, and depending on the size of the baby we deliver, it’s either a modern gentle cycle or a good old-fashioned Speed Queen with hand crank like my grandmother used. In the instances of these moms though, it wasn’t enough to post some modest photos. These women went full throttle and showed their exposed pre and post-natal bellies; I’m sure for dramatic effect and to create some “chatter”. I would also venture to guess by the “fabletic”-type apparel sported in the photos, they were no strangers to posting selfies well before the stork paid them a visit.

Needless to say, I was a bit perplexed as to the newsworthiness of these photos. These seemed to simply be women consumed with their appearance and the need to post pictures of themselves under the guise that they are supporting other moms who may be struggling with post-partum self-images.

Women have been growing and delivering babies for millennia without the need to make public what they looked like before, during or after pregnancy. Obviously our bodies take a beating during and after pregnancy, but we deal with it because in the end, the gift of life is more important that our self-image. Twenty-six years after the first of four kids arrived in our family, I’ve never felt compelled to share my Speed Queen marks with anyone. Quite frankly they’re ugly; but they’re my very own ugly, yet wonderful reminders of God’s reward (Psalm 127-3-5). I also know that there are women who endure much more than some ugly stretch marks or cesarean scars who are not begging for the attention that this generation seems to crave.

I myself actually enjoyed being pregnant, well, with the exception of morning sickness in the first trimester and heartburn in the last. People think I’m weird when I tell them that, but it was probably because, next to my wedding, it was really the only time in my life when I got a lot of attention; and who doesn’t like a little attention? But when the babies arrived, I promptly took my place in the background again. The problem is, in this age of social media, we don’t have to gracefully and humbly go into the background. Everyone is fair game. We no longer have to be outshone by our kids. We can share the spotlight, even if it’s in the form of photos of stretch marks and scars. Any publicity is good publicity, right? Actors know this, which is why you see so many former child stars show up in questionable movies, photos and tabloids as adults. It’s a way to stay relevant.

Unfortunately in the process, we are losing our identities because we’re too busy trying to keep up with … and one up each other. We are teaching our kids by example that their identities are wrapped up in campaigning on a medium that will never come close to everyday relationships.  

I used to look forward to the Christmas cards that included family pictures because it was fun to see how the families have grown up year to year. But now you see their days played out on social media so there isn’t anything to look forward to. No picture is any more special than another because none of them are unique. We all long for acceptance in our lives, but who or what are we trying to gain it from?

So to all the first-time-moms-to-be (including my daughter Emily), enjoy the miracle and  remember that the best memories and experiences are not made or recalled from behind the camera, they’re made face-to- face.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. – Psalm 139:14


The Age of Irrelevance

I knew I was in trouble when I recently needed to move my mother’s new car to a different parking spot in our driveway. She handed me something that resembled a key and then promptly told me I didn’t really need it. “Just push the button. The key only has to be near the car to start it,” she said. I am certain I had a look on my face that resembled, minus the crying, the times when my engineer and math-wiz father tried to explain to me how to solve an algebra or geometry problem as a teenager. So I get into her car, unnaturally lay the key on the passenger seat and push the giant “start” button that I located on the front of the dashboard. Nothing. I move the key to the top of the dash reasoning that it needs to be closer, all the while thinking I’m in an episode of the Jetsons. Nothing again. I try one more time with no success before getting out of the car, going in the house and telling her it’s not starting.

“Did you put your foot on the brake before you pushed the button?” My 26-year-old son chimes in from behind his Macbook. Obviously I hadn’t, probably because I was pushing a button to start a car! Foot on brake, turn key in ignition, car starts. Everyone knows that’s how you start a car, right?

“Oh yeah,” my 70-year-old mother says, “I forgot to tell you that.” I don’t feel so bad now, she forgot something.

Are we really living in the age where we use buttons to starts cars? Shouldn’t I be thinking that this new technology is pretty darn cool? For pete’s sake, I grew up in the generation of the first desktop computer; the generation that came of age with Pong and the first Atari game system.  We were the first pre-teens on our block to spend our weekends entering lines and lines of code in DOS that would allow us to play a new game on our family computer; the first video geeks of Phyllis Drive. Our generation was on the cutting edge of technology when monochrome monitors went to VGA. I turned 18 the same month Microsoft Windows came out. In my first years in the workforce, I went from using an IBM Selectric typewriter and 10-key calculator to WordPerfect and Lotus 1-2-3.

When did I become overwhelmed by a start button on a car?  When did I become old?

My co-worker and friend Lisa and I were having one of our Monday morning update-on-the-weekend chats and the topic was feeling irrelevant, specifically with our kids. This feeling was confirmed a few days later when we asked a church board member if he ever felt irrelevant and he said, “Oh, I felt like that about 10-11 years ago.” Good, then it wasn’t just us and, guessing his age, we fell exactly where we should on the timeline of irrelevancy.

The days approaching my creaky bone status, I  am thinking a lot about how things are changing in our family, and how I’m feeling left back somewhere in that time between their birth and the teen years or what I like to call those “all-knowing” years.  You know, the age where you as their parent don’t know squat and they’ve suddenly likened themselves to King Solomon.

In the very near future, Josh will graduate from law school and become a patent attorney. Emily and her husband Chase will make Tim and I grandparents for the first time. Sarah will graduate high school and be off to college. Abby will turn 16 and enter her junior year of high school. As you can see, all different stages within the same generation to try and keep up with. So you can understand how I would be confused about suddenly having to use a button to start an automobile.

Fortunately, I have found through the years of trying to control many things in their lives and mine that I’ve mellowed, because frankly I can’t keep up anymore. All normal I tell myself, but just the same, letting go is difficult. I figure, if we’ve done a decent enough job raising our kids, they will someday come to realize that we do have some scraps of wisdom to share. So I learn to wait, because I know they’ll eventually be back seeking it.

I recently turned a half-century old, the big 5-0, over-the-hill, another person heading into the autumn of their life. Well, at least I hope it’s the autumn. I hope God is just having me rake leaves for a bit instead of shoveling snow.

Perhaps the fruit from our spring will now come in the form of watching our kids make the leap to adulthood, new sons and a daughter we have, and someday will have, to grow our family tree, future grandchildren and great-grandchildren to love and the friends and family who will be alongside us on the journey.

Although I have both benefited and cursed it at times, technology doesn’t seem all that important when looking at the big picture of my life, because “life is too short.” My new phrase these days seems befitting to my current place on the timeline. As the leaves turn their brilliant colors, I heard recently that those colors are always there in the trees.  It’s the chlorophyll that makes them green in spring and summer but in the fall or autumn, that chlorophyll drains from the leaves, revealing the colors that were always there.

For those our age, feeling irrelevant and trying to stall the seasons, I’ve noticed that while intellectually we may gain wisdom, physically, the neck and the hands don’t hide anything. Our attempts are in vain. So unless we want to go through our autumn wearing gloves and turtlenecks, enjoy raking the leaves, the colors really are quite beautiful.

Even to your old age and gray hairs I am He, I am He who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you. – -Isaiah 46:4


Step Up and Take Your Mark

Having had an aversion to areas of water larger than say a clogged sink after a near drowning experience on a family vacation when I was a young child, it was a goal of mine that each of my kids learn to swim. It helped tremendously that I married a swimmer who would teach them, because those swim lessons that my mother signed my sister Jenny and I up for in elementary school didn’t help. I could not float to save my life and my failed jelly fish attempt made total sense when I discovered it was just another name for the “dead man’s float”.

Our two oldest kids learned to swim in the backyard pool at our first house in West Seneca. Moving to Lancaster in 1998, Josh would swim modified for a short while, but track eventually became his sport of choice. Emily would swim modified right up through varsity.

Sarah came along 7 years after Emily, and Abby followed 2 years after that, both learning to swim in the backyard pool in Lancaster. Panic would be an understatement in describing the first time I saw Tim holding baby Sarah in that pool, blowing into her face to get her to hold her breath and dipping her under the water. Seeing her come up laughing should have been an indicator that she would someday come to love the water.

Of the two younger kids, Sarah would be the one to take over where Emily left off. For this I was thankful, because after Emily graduated, I felt a little lost, not knowing what I would do on those fall afternoons if there were no meets to attend.

It’s ironic that someone who is not particularly fond of water would spend about 14 consecutive years watching a sport that takes place in the very environment she herself tried to avoid throughout middle and high school. I still cringe at the thought of an upcoming swim unit in gym, wondering how many notes I could convince my mother to write to get me out it.

As I write this, Sarah is in her last post season of competitive swimming. She does not plan to swim in college so for our family, this is the last time we will be sitting as spectators in those humid natatoriums with the jimmy hands trying to video record races and heart-pounding finishes. At least that is until the grandchildren come along, who knows … the love of swimming may just return through one of them.

There are so many people throughout the years who made swimming such a great experience for Sarah.

To all of her swim coaches, Brandi Bashor (Star-Lancaster), Karen Majeski (Lancaster Middle), Kristin Eberhart (Lancaster High), and especially Mike O’Connor and Delee VanMaaren (Iroquois High), thank you. Thank you for not coddling, but for giving Sarah opportunities to build not only her abilities as a swimmer, but also for those opportunities to build her character and leadership skills through her love of the sport.

To all of her teammates these past four years, thank you. Thank you for welcoming a newcomer into a tight-knit district half the size of the one she left, but more so for welcoming her into an even smaller group, the Lady Chiefs Swim Team. You were all such a joy to watch.

To the Iroquois swim moms who made all of the fundraisers, scheduling, organizing, dinners, sleepovers, transportation and apparel orders possible, thank you. Thank you for giving of your time and for your hospitality. It was truly a blessing to our family.

To my husband Tim, thank you for being the encourager of our pair. When you team up with the two of our kids who are sanguines (Emily and Abby) like yourself, you guys make awesome cheerleaders; although I don’t think I’ll miss that whistle!

To big brother Josh, thank you. Even though you only swam for a couple years, you continued throughout the years to have a genuine interest in the sport that was such a big part of our family.

To big sister Emily, thank you for carrying on the love of swimming from your Dad to your little sister and exemplifying that while swimming is a great test of endurance and exciting races, the relationships developed over those years are what really matters.

To my favorite son-in-law Chase, thank you for your contagious excitement of everything sports. You jumped with both feet in to a family where swimming was the dominant sport and showed no partiality even with your background in basketball and tennis.

A special thank you to Abby, our youngest and the child who sat through the most meets of a sport she has absolutely no interest in. You became a fairly vocal cheerleader and videographer as the years and meets went by. Thanks for hanging out with me and keeping me company until those all of those seats we had to save were occupied by Sarah’s cheering section.

So, what will I miss?

I will miss watching Sarah, who was humbled to be named co-captain her senior year of high school (an honor also given to her father (swim), Josh (track) and Emily (swim)), cheering on and encouraging her teammates through their own races.

I will miss her looking at us before stepping up on the blocks and after swimming a race, looking for her father’s special signal, her shared excitement of a potential or new best-time or her shared disappointment of not-so-great time.

I will miss the countless hours spent after each meet at home as a family (sometimes over the course of week), replaying the videos and talking about each meet.

I will miss the anticipation that came with the official’s words, “Swimmers, step up. Take your mark.” We will instead say to our Sarah Adeline as she prepares to graduate this coming Spring, “Step out and make your mark.” 

Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and He will establish your plans.  – Proverbs 16:3











Order Up!

Growing up in the 70’s and early 80’s, my childhood home had both a kitchen table and a dining room table, but rarely did we eat meals outside the confines of the kitchen. Nothing extraordinary, the dining room table was pretty much reserved for homework and holidays. For a while that dining room table was even home to something that may very well have been the first of its kind in our suburban neighborhood, an Apple II computer. At our kitchen table, every day a folded newspaper would be waiting next to my father’s place setting. The food was served from pots rather than in serving dishes, probably to keep one of us four sisters who was on washing duty that week from complaining about too many dishes. You see, the automatic dishwasher didn’t appear in our childhood home until us girls were all grown and slowly leaving the nest. Although I don’t recall deep intellectual conversations around the dinner table, I do recall lots of nonsensical chatter occurring, us sisters babbling on about something from the day all the while my father read his newspaper.

Years later, I would eat dinner for the first time at the family home of my future husband where the food was served at the dining table in serving dishes.  Moreover, those serving dishes were passed around in clock-wise fashion. There was no free-for-all, like at my house. Afraid to speak much, everything seemed very proper there. At age eighteen, I decided I was in no way going to appear manner-less in this new environment, so for me, it was best to say as little as possible. I recall there not being as much conversation at this dinner table, which made me (an introvert) just a tad uncomfortable coming from a home where not much was off limits. I remember being afraid to ask to have the salt passed; (1) because we didn’t pass things at my house. If you wanted it, you simply raised yourself from your seat and reached for it and (2) due to the fact that there wasn’t much conversation to distract me, I was quick to observe that no one in this family seemed to salt their food. Maybe they would think less of me for wanting to add a dash or two … or three of my second favorite condiment (chocolate being my first) to my meal. It was at this table that I learned that there is a correct direction to pass food, that you don’t start eating your dessert until the hostess has served everyone and is seated again, and the table where grace was consistently said.

Fast forward again, married and our family completed (for the time being) with four kids, I discovered that Tim and I developed a mix from both childhood tables. Chatter, sometimes loud and incessant, from mine and etiquette from Tim’s.  It works well; so well that not only when Tim designed the house in which we now reside did he make our dining room size conducive to having our extended family sitting around the table, but the kitchen space has that ability as well. Our kitchen is the space you walk into when you enter the main door of our house. It’s also larger than our family room and he did this on purpose. Apparently, over the years he was doing some observing of his own. He witnessed that in many houses, family and friends gather around the kitchen spaces instead of the family room. I have noticed countless times where we have had a houseful of people and no one was in the family room. We have an open floor-plan, so overflow can happen easy. It didn’t matter, the kitchen counter was and is the place to be. Of course, it helps that Tim made the counter space large enough to set 7 stools, with the capability to comfortably accommodate 10. I jokingly tell him I feel like I work in a diner sometimes, cooking, serving, cleaning but with the added benefit of being able to participate in the conversations that occur. I say, don’t underestimate the power of a kitchen counter.

That being said, while we eat at the dining room table on Sunday evenings as a family, we use the counter a lot during the week. Sometimes it bothers Tim that we’re not at the table more, but I remind him that the kitchen counter can also be our dining table. During the week, the kids that live at home are here and there, sometimes having to eat early to get a church study, a school concert, worship practice or a meeting and sometimes they’ll eat later because they’re just getting home from school, swim or track practice. They still sit at the counter and we still get to share in their lives. The kids that have left the nest still come in, immediately sit down at the counter and start talking.

The counter is a great communication space, perhaps because it’s not as formal as a dining table. There’s no pressure or expectation to contribute to a conversation, like there might be in a more formal setting. We’ve had our share of great conversations and heart-to-hearts at both the dining table and at the counter, but the counter seems to be the go-to space for most of those these days. When we’re not eating at the dining room table, it’s being used for homework, drawing, board games and the newly introduced card game of Dutch Blitz (the traditional family card game of Pinochle now has some competition).

As the kids get older and busyness becomes more commonplace, my advice is to create as many opportunities for communication and conversation, even if it’s at the kitchen counter and you feel compelled to say, “order up!”

Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. – Colossians 4:6

The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

A few weeks ago, my cousin Kelly contacted my sister Jody and wanted to know if everything was okay with me.  Kelly was concerned that I “unfriended” her on Facebook.  I did indeed “unfriend” her, but I did that with all 60 of my Facebook “friends.” I didn’t unfriend everyone for the purpose of an experiment, but now that I think about it, Kelly was the only who asked. Perhaps I wasn’t  as interesting a person as I portrayed myself to be in the eyes of my social media “friends”.

I did let Kelly know that I unfriended all of my Facebook “friends”, not just her. I would never unfriend her in the true sense of friendship. After all, she was my first babysitting customer and flower girl in my wedding. My daughters Emily and Sarah were the junior bridesmaid and flower girl in her wedding. And her mom, our Aunt Carol, is like our older sister. My sister Jenny and I were her first babysitting customers and flower girls in her wedding. So you can see the connection we have and why Kelly might be concerned.

Quite frankly I’d like to ditch Facebook all together, but I post news and events on my church’s page. So now my feed contains only “memories” and whatever I post for work, sad, right? For a short while, I even thought I would try my hand at Instagram and Twitter, both of which were short lived. My life just isn’t that fascinating as to post a photo or thought that I felt compelled to share with my 20 Instagram followers, which apparently in the world of social media, wasn’t many. I actually found it to be meaningless, and I love looking at pictures. Hand me a photo album and I could spend some serious time perusing days gone by. However, for someone who can’t recall what they did yesterday, I didn’t need to add trying to figure out what comment-worthy photo I could take and manipulate to look better with a filter or what words of wisdom I could share that would inspire someone to “love” or “retweet”, to my list of things to do.

Both as a child and an adult, I never felt the need to have a huge number of friends to prove that I was well-liked. I decided a long time ago that I wasn’t going to change what makes me … me, to fit in to what culture says makes a friend a friend. God made me this way and I understand that He doesn’t make mistakes. If you don’t like me, that’s okay too; that doesn’t offend me. Those I consider my close friends know the good, the bad and the ugly side of Janice. And for some strange reason, they still choose to stick around. Maybe there is still hope for this melancholy!

The primary reason I decided to disengage from social media, was the wasted time and narcissism I was seeing from myself and others. What is this preoccupation with self? Why did I feel the need to get my self-worth from social media?  What am I trying to make myself into behind a screen that I’m not like in real life? I began seeing posts on Facebook (my go-to source for awesome families, thought-provoking snippets of Scripture and “stick-it-to-em” political memes), and then seeing the same exact posts on Instagram. Are we so insecure with ourselves that we need to utilize whatever venue available to us to vie for likes, smiley faces, thumbs up and shares? Do we think our Facebook audience is different from our Instagram audience? I got off Instagram almost as quickly as I got on.

I also felt like I was living vicariously through my kids accomplishments, because honestly, I’m kind of a boring person. And I’m okay with that because the rest of my family makes up where I fall short on the excitement scale. Through social media, I could control what the world saw about me, choosing only the best.

As a Christian, I try to be good, but sometimes it seems my failures outweigh the good. But that’s real to me and I would much rather be face-to-face with a few friends and share real life with them, than have hundreds of screen friends and cherry-pick those areas where I come out looking like something I just can’t live up to all for the sake of a thumbs up.

Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ. – Galatians 1:10











Circles are Better than Rows

In 2005 if someone would have told me the significance of being in a Small Group I would first have asked, “What’s a Small Group?” Followed by my protest question, “What do I have to do that I don’t want to do?” Truth be told, I would have asked the second question first. I am an introvert, so being in a small setting with a bunch of folks I didn’t know, where I wouldn’t go unnoticed, didn’t seem very appealing to me. However, my extrovert spouse Tim overruled any excuses I had rolling around in my head for not participating and we began “The Journey.” Thank goodness for the extroverts!

Quite honestly I wasn’t sure what “The Journey” was all about when we started, but what I did discover is that that I enjoyed being in this group of people and surprisingly found myself not wanting to miss a week. So over the course of many month we came to church once a week during the work week and gathered with exploring, new and “mature”  Christians. I will admit, because of where I was (or wasn’t) in my walk, most of what was taught seemed over my head. This was all new … small groups and studying the Bible, but community came out of these classes for me.

So significant was one Spiritual Development class within the Journey that I actually remember where I was sitting in the room. Greg Corral was teaching on the Holy Spirit and I remember thinking during that class, “Please don’t call on me, please don’t call on me.” I was participating enough in the other classes, so maybe if I didn’t make eye contact he wouldn’t call on me. Perhaps it was a prompting by the Holy Spirit because just like Greg, it was like he could read my thoughts and wanting to challenge me, proceeded to ask me what I thought the Holy Spirit was. I opened my mouth, but at first nothing came out. I paused a moment and blurted out, “I got nothing.” I was being truthful at the time. I had never really thought about the Holy Spirit. I am happy to report that during that class, I learned a lot about this very important part of the Trinity.  Personally, the Holy Spirit is my conscience. It’s what prompted me to go online and discover a teaching by Andy Stanley on Small Groups called “Preventative Circles”.

Although the Journey is just one of the Small Groups that Crossroads offers, it was a huge part of what was to come for me. I have learned since those first small group classes in 2005 that we were not designed to be alone, but rather in community with one another. If Tim hadn’t “encouraged” me to go through the Journey with him, I never would have had the opportunity to share that experience with my sister and her husband who were also new and going through the classes at the same time. I never would have met my best girlfriend (another sanguine in my life, go figure), someone who would not too long after, become like another sister to me and later yet, re-introduce me to tent camping, something I vowed 27 years ago never to do again. I never would have taken part 2 of the Journey and learned why I am the way I am through the gifting course, taught by someone who I consider my mentor and fellow melancholy sympathizer.

The Journey was not only a catalyst for me but also for my family. When we first came to Crossroads almost 12 years ago, Sunday youth group was meeting at Pastor Pat’s house. Josh, our oldest, didn’t attend that first week, but the second week came and as he started to protest going, that same sanguine from the beginning of this message, “encouraged” him to go; meaning he said, “you’re going.”  Josh would soon make friends that he is still friends with today, making new ones along the way, moving from Youth on to the Young Adults group after graduating college. Emily, our second born, would be welcomed to the Youth Group simply by the Youth leader at the time, Paul Payette, letting her come to the High School Thursday night Bible study as a middle schooler. I recall dropping them off in the front parking lot before she went the first time and her nervously asking Josh, “are you sure he said it was okay”? Well, she was hooked and would be a member of Youth Group through high school. Now graduated from college, she is married and serving in the Youth and Children’s Ministry with her new husband. She has shared that she would like to go back to Mexico as a young adult leader when Pastor Todd takes the youth back on a mission trip. Sarah and Abby are currently coming up through high school and we hope that they can have those same opportunities for friendship and community as their older siblings.

There are stories like this for each of us who have come here, joining a group not knowing what to expect, but coming out on the other side blessed beyond measure.

In this sermon I was listening to, Andy Stanley encourages children, youth, singles, marrieds, “mature” adults, etc. and explains the importance of being part of small groups (or circles) at all stages of life.  He sums it up with this …

“Let’s say that something happens to me, all the staff, and all the buildings simultaneously explode. Let’s make it worst case scenario. There’s no staff. There’s no buildings. And there’s no me. Here’s what would happen. On Monday, Tuesday and Thursday of the following week, thousands and thousands of adults would gather in homes all over the city and pray together, and do Bible study together and take care of whatever family members are left over and the church is going to go on.

Because at the end of the day, circles are better than rows. And from day one, we’ve been committed to creating a culture that’s all about circles and not rows. We are famous for our rows. But the strength of our churches is what happens in circles.”

We don’t have thousands of attenders or multiple churches, but those “circles” at Crossroads are pretty significant to me and my family. So thank you to Pastor Pat for standing in the field at the corner of Jamison and Girdle all those years ago and seeing the vision … the vision of rows, circles and maybe even a future Family Life Center. How exciting would that be?

I Don’t Speak Christianese

I recently finished a book called “You Lost Me” by David Kinnaman, which explores the topic of 18-29 year olds leaving the church. In the last chapter, he lists “50 Ideas to Find a Generation” and the first one hit a nerve.

“When you’re honest with your story, when you share the truth about who you are and what you struggle with, you give others a tremendous gift: the gift of going second. It’s so much harder to go first. None of the rules have been set. The boundaries have not been drawn. The borders of the land have not been clearly marked, especially when it comes to Christian circles. But that’s what we’re called to do, to throw ourselves on the honesty grenade. To share and live the truth. When we do, we give everyone the gift of going second. It’s so much easier to go second. You don’t perform or shine up your mistakes to look like a “real Christian” or a “good Christian”. The monster of pretending to be perfect has already been laid to rest.” – John Acuff

I am a Christian, but I don’t speak what I call “Christianese”; as defined by me, the lingo one may hear in church or in Christian circles. I don’t speak that way because I often find myself thinking about the person coming to church or coming to my home who doesn’t know what it means to “be in the world, not of the world” or to “die to self”. I was that person. I’m thinking about the person who may have walked away from their faith and is coming back or the one who is just exploring. I was that person. I grew up Roman Catholic, married a Lutheran and ended up in a non-denominational church.

Coming from liturgical services, those first services in a non-denominational church back in 2005 were uncomfortable. We stood for what seemed like forever singing (it was actually only 15 minutes) and the teaching was 30 minutes long (but surprisingly life-applicable). However, since it was all foreign to me, my natural response was to try and find things that might not work for us at this church. I remember telling Tim if they said “born again” or “saved” one more time I was leaving. That was almost 12 years ago.

It was like God said, “Eh, not so fast. You didn’t end up here by chance.”

When I started reading the Bible and found this bothersome-to-me “born-again” Scripture in John 3:3 (John is my favorite Gospel, but I don’t know if it’s wrong to have a favorite Gospel?), I was intrigued. The non-stop questions started and Tim happened to be on the receiving end of the barrage. Why had I never heard this Scripture in the Catholic or Lutheran Church? If the Bible is the Word of God, why was this never taught? Why did I not know what it meant? Maybe I just wasn’t paying attention? Even though it’s right there in the Bible, this one line of Scripture makes people so uncomfortable that negative connotations are given to non-denominational churches. Interestingly enough if you read 13 verses later in the same chapter, you arrive at one of the most well-known verses used in all denominations, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son that whoever should die will not perish, but have eternal life.” -John 3:16

So, on Good Friday 2006, alone in my family room, I asked Jesus into my life. What does that mean? It means I fessed up. That’s a hard thing to do when you grow up thinking you’re always right and everyone else is wrong. It means I acknowledged who Christ is and that I need Him; also a hard thing to do when you grow up thinking you don’t need anyone’s help. I don’t go around telling people that I am born-again or that I’m saved. For me, my heart change, the way I react in situations now, the way I try to live, tells my story. Just the fact that the minute I do or say something wrong and am instantly convicted, tells me that the Holy Spirit is in me; and I am convicted daily! Honestly, things that I wouldn’t have questioned 12-15 years ago, things I would have done or said, I question all the time now. When you discover that you’re a sinner, it’s overwhelming to think about. 

I don’t pretend to be versed in Scripture. I leave that to the theologians and teachers. I don’t have feel-good wisdom and words of encouragement to share. I leave that to my sanguine cohorts. It’s hard trying to keep up and I’m plain tired. After all, I’m still on the journey, stumbling and fumbling, praying that I trip less the older I get. I don’t want to be a hypocrite or a fake Christian, presenting airs of someone who has it all together, because I am flawed. My problems may be different than others, but flawed in God’s eyes, just the same. I’m just thankful He’s there with me on this journey and reminding me that He loves me in spite of my mess.