Lenten Thoughts: Accountability

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The first time I went to seminary, I took a preaching course with Dr. Charles Munson. I was pastoring my first church and felt like such a rookie. One day in class, he made this statement: “There are no secret disciples. Either the disciple will kill the secret, or the secret will kill the disciple.”

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Dr. Munson’s quote came to mind recently as I was reading my latest edition of Writer’s Digest. The article catching my attention referred to their spring writing contest. I thought to myself: I could do that. The longer I thought about the contest, I felt my resolve become: I’m going to do that. Later that day, after doing some research and writing, I told my husband about my plan. Now I’m locked in. He won’t let me forget. And that’s exactly why I told him: he will hold my feet to the fire of accountability.

I was taught the ABC’s of faith were: accept, believe, and confess. We can do the first two privately, but the third sends us straight into accountability.

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When I was still working as a family counselor, I worked with an agency that had several therapists at differing levels of experience and licensure. One woman in the group had “Independent” status. She chaffed at the suggestion someone needed to supervise her. She bristled at the thought of someone looking over her shoulder. I was a rookie at the time, so I was used to having my work scrutinized. Later, lack of accountability became my undoing.

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One of my favorite Bible stories finds the disciples hanging out in the Upper Room until Pentecost. Imagine the scene. These folks had to learn how to be together. There were so many different kinds of folks. Trust was the furthest thing from their minds or experiences. Zealots, tax collectors, ex-prostitutes, and fishermen had to learn to get along. Miraculously, it worked. They were able to connect and when they did a power came on them like one this world had never seen.

What happened in that room? I think they learned to tell their story, the story of what Jesus had done for them, done in them. And they learned to listen. They talked about their dreams and what they hoped to accomplish with their lives for God and for the Kingdom. They told their secrets and became accountable to one another.

And it changed the world.

What secret desires has God been wanting to unwrap and unleash in your life? Tell someone. Get accountable. Allow God to work. You may be surprised at what power you free up to blow through your life and the lives around you!

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Writing Challenging Book Reviews

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I offered to read two books and review them.

There are many reasons I agree to do this. I like getting free books and I like connecting with new authors. I know how important it is to have a book reviewed.

But it’s not always easy. Sometimes I don’t care for the book, its story or the writing style. I’ve agreed to be honest, but there’s no need to be mean-spirited. Just because the book didn’t do anything for me doesn’t mean it won’t or can’t reach someone else.

Both of the books I read fell into the challenging review category.

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The first book, The Chronicles of Jake Tanner, Hell’s Lane is co-authored by someone I respect as an writer and mentor, Kathy Bruin. I jumped at the opportunity to read and review.

The book was dark, contained language and content that might be offensive to some. I was not offended, but I felt this book would not fit most church libraries. How was I going to review it?

The first thing I did was contact Kathy. The thing I needed to know was who was the intended audience. Books don’t always preach to the choir. Sometimes they have to reach people who would be uncomfortable even being around organized religious folks. Kathy assured the goal was to start discussions of the issues of choices and consequences and how those choices can ultimately affect our eternal destiny.

This book could do that. I can and did write a review saying those things.

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I was offered the opportunity to read the second book by the author. She was careful to preface her invitation by telling me the subject material was unique and not an easy sell.

The book is well written stylistically and the story is compelling. But the issue is the issue: the main character is attempting to come to terms with his bisexuality. The author has faced a lot of negative feedback from publishers who don’t want to touch the topic. And I think that’s a shame.

This book falls even better into the category of discussion starter, both for those who struggle and those who are trying to understand the struggle. The issue will not go away because we don’t address it, so why not use a well-written source to help those who are looking for answers?

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I have a friend who continually challenges me to get out of the “Christian Ghetto.” She believes there are people outside the comfort of the church who are hungering and thirsting, who need more than the standard fare of Christian-eze. Her sentiments were similar to those of a movie producer I heard speak at a Christian Writers Conference earlier this year.

So maybe these two books wouldn’t be typical of the books on your church library shelf, but maybe they should be somewhere in the church and opened for discussion.

Advent 23: Consequences

It has not been a fun day at my house. The grandson and the Pepa locked horns. And a very stiff penalty was levied. The child didn’t think the adult was serious. The adult was unbending. There were many tears, but no true repentance. How do I know? The child blamed everyone else and continued to try and negotiate.

This did not help his case. In fact, I believe it only encouraged the adult to feel that he was right in his decision.

As long as we have been parents, foster parents, and grandparents, we have taught that actions have consequences.

And had to learn it, too. I tried to explain that to the child, but his heart was hurting to much to hear.

If you want to talk about harsh consequences, pull up a chair and listen to Adam and Eve’s story. It was just an apple. And they were unfairly tempted. At least that’s the way they saw it. One bite and not only were they booted out of the Garden, but then there was all that business about work and pain. Talk about harsh. I mean the rest of us have been paying for their poor choice through the ages.

But it’s not like we haven’t been warned. The Word is full of warning, the clearest being: you will reap what you sow.

Sometimes watching a child deal consequences makes it not much fun to be a mom or mema. It’s hard to not want to swoop in and rescue. It was very hard today.

In more ways than I want to try and explain, I have learned how choices result in consequences. But at the hardest point in facing those consequences, I found this scripture encouragement:
As for me, I look to the Lord for help.
I wait confidently for God to save me,
and my God will certainly hear me.
8 Do not gloat over me, my enemies!
For though I fall, I will rise again.
Though I sit in darkness,
the Lord will be my light.
9 I will be patient as the Lord punishes me,
for I have sinned against him.
But after that, he will take up my case
and give me justice for all I have suffered from my enemies.
The Lord will bring me into the light,
and I will see his righteousness.
10 Then my enemies will see that the Lord is on my side. (Micah 7:7-10, NLT)

Try as I might, I couldn’t find anything in the Word that spoke to God removing consequences. I wish, but no. Not there.

What is there is the promise that he will be with me…with you…all the way through.

In the darkest times, he will be there. He will be our light. He hears us. And he will bring us back to the light. And we will see his righteousness again.

And that’s good news to hold onto.