Sunday Sheep Ponderings – May 28, 2017


#sundaysheepponderings 
Pondering today on transition. It’s only natural that I would have transition on the brain since the youngest of my five children graduated from high school yesterday. My husband and I are about to transition to “empty nesters”. The human story is full of these transitions. We transition from childhood to adulthood, student to employee, single to married, child to parent. In some cases we even transition back again. Each transition requires learning, growing, compromising and a flexibility to bend and stretch. 
This pondering led me to look at some of the big transitions in my own life. To take an honest look at how I adjusted to those transitions. Some I did with ease but most were a battle. 
My pondering has been especially reflective of my transition from “religious zealot” to “passionately loved”. At one time, I even thought those two were the same. 
Religion is a man made system. This system is fed entirely from “The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil”. It is a system that is fueled by law. With my limited knowledge, I see that the major religions of the world have 3 common foundations.
1. SEPARATION. Divinity from Humanity. Humanity from Humanity.

2. JUDGEMENT. Right and Wrong. Good and Bad. Blessing and Punishment. 

3. WALLS. Us and Them. Believers and Non-Believers. Chosen and Damned. Found and Lost. Accepted and Rejected. Loved and Hated. Included and Excluded.
The heart of religion is law and judgement, and the god of religion is far away and hard to please. This god requires constant attention, sacrifice and fear. This god only loves a few. I WAS a “religious zealot”. I WAS full or judgment and arrogance. I WAS eating from the tree that leads to death. 
But then…TRANSITION occurred. 
Today, I AM “passionately loved”. Love is the opposite of religion. 
Love is a God made system. This system is fed entirely by “The Tree of Life”. It is a system fueled by grace. Its foundation is diametrically opposed to that of religion.
1. ONENESS. Divinity with Humanity. Humanity with Humanity. 

2. GRACE. For every person. For every background. For every culture. For every ignorance. For every mistake. For every misunderstanding. For every unknown. At every step of the human journey. 

3. ACCEPTANCE. Of ALL His creation. 
The heart of love is God. A God that requires nothing but gives everything. A God that loves all of His creation, especially humanity that He created in His image. A God who removes all fear and replaces it with love. I AM “passionately loved”. I AM free from judgement, of myself and others. I AM eating from the tree that gives life. 
Transition. Will you fight it? Hanging on to the past for dear life? Or will you welcome the new with open arms? Surrendering to the possibility that transition can be beautiful.
Happy Sunday my friends! Love well ❤️

Sunday Sheep Ponderings – May 21, 2017


#sundaysheepponderings 

Pondering today on a quote by the 9th century Celtic teacher, John Scotus Eriugena. “Grace is NOT opposed to what is deepest in us BUT to what is false in us”. 
I love this because it reminds us that, at our core, the deepest part of us, we are created in God’s image and likeness. That we are created BY Him and FOR Him. The grace of God doesn’t come to “change” you but to remind you of truth, to remove all the lies you believe about God and you, to RESTORE what has been taken from you. 
I’m about to kill some sacred cows here, especially my own. You are not a “wretch” as the song, Amazing Grace, proclaims but instead, you are a “masterpiece”, formed and sculpted by an Artist Father. It’s time to see yourself as He does and let grace expose and destroy all that is false. You are loved, accepted and His…today, just as you are, no changes or requirements necessary. 
When you get a glimpse of His perfect love for you, restoration will flow and overtake all the lies. Go dive in the waters of grace and come up out of the waters with a clear vision of the masterpiece that you are! 
Happy Sunday my friends! Love well…especially yourself. ❤️️

Sunday Sheep Ponderings – May 7,2017


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Pondering today on praying “to” God or praying “with” God.
There is much confusion about prayer and for many, especially those in the church community, prayer can become a “work”, a “task”, an “event”. After being the prayer leader of a major world wide ministry, teaching on prayer and praying with hundreds of people at alters, bible studies and grocery stores…I still have so many questions about prayer. Now, I know, that Jesus taught us how to pray The Lord’s Prayer but my guess is that most people just recite the words and have never delved deeply into the original language, the historical and cultural backgrounds of the Jews he was talking to or the inaccuracies that the translation process included. All of that “knowledge” is not at the heart of this pondering. 
My question is this…Do we pray TO God or WITH God? I would say that for about 45 of my 50 years in this body, I prayed TO God. In my minds eye, my imagination, I envisioned God in a physical place called heaven, while I was in a physical place called earth. My hope in prayer was that He would hear me and answer me. Sometimes I determined that He heard and answered because I would see proof. At other times, I determined that He did not hear me, or care, because I would not see proof. This led to a “Prayer Performance Treadmill”. If I pray consistently, diligently, correctly….God will listen and work on my behalf. And similarly, if I don’t pray consistently, diligently and correctly…He will not answer.
This week has been a roller coaster. I’ll spare you the details but our home is on the market and this week has held quite the spectrum of emotions from excitement to frustration to hope to anger and on I could go. All that to say…I see prayer differently now. This difference has been a long time coming and a process of many questions with an unfolding of answers. I realized this week that my prayer life had substantially shifted. I shifted from praying TO God to praying WITH God. The deep abiding presence of GOD IN ME has been so comforting and so powerful. The shift from asking something from this far off, “separated from” deity had become a “know in my knower”, woven into every fiber of my being, deeply intimate communion.. And it wasn’t just lip service. I knew that as I experienced and processed all the week had delivered to me, that WE were experiencing and processing it together. I didn’t have to have a magic formula to get God to help or intervene because He had been a participant the whole time. He knew what I was feeling, what I was thinking, what I was concerned about and He cared. I guess what I’m trying to communicate is that prayer looks so different to me now. It’s not a thing I do but an awareness of what is. It is that deep knowing that no matter what comes my way….God is with me. 
My friends, if prayer has become just one more thing to do, an obligation, a duty of a good Christian, a way to make sure that God intervenes on your behalf….maybe a shift is needed in your understanding. Prayer is oneness, intimacy, awareness and most of all…it is rest. It’s a knowing that you don’t have to say a word because He is woven into every part of your mind, body and soul. It is an understanding that He is with you and there is no separation. It is a trust in His unfailingly love that will cover you like a warm blanket in all the storms of this life. It is true and lasting rest. 
So go into this day, this week, this life with this awareness…God is ALWAYS with you, God is ALWAYS hearing you and God is always loving you. Happy Sunday my friends! Love well! 

Sunday Sheep Ponderings- April 23,2017


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Pondering today on “MORE”. 
On Friday, I made the four hour drive, by myself, from my house in Georgia to Nashville. For the first part of the journey I listened to some country music and podcasts. At some point along the way, I sensed the spirit of God invite me into quiet. While the Spirit often speaks through songs and other people, I sensed that this particular moment was an “us” moment, a time that He had set aside for the two of us. 
After some silence, I began to pour out my heart. “Daddy, you have opened my eyes and my heart to so much new revelation the last 5 years. It’s been a journey that at times I have been thrilled to be on and at times, I have been hesitant to take the next step. It’s as if you have pulled the rug out from under me yet I stand on firmer ground. So many things that I thought to be true of You, You simply blew away like dust on a dresser. Daddy, I’m so thankful, BUT……..I sometimes feel like I’m being used as target practice for those who don’t agree with what You have shown me. Friends, family members and yes, Instagram followers have their arrows ready to launch as soon as my theology doesn’t line up with theirs. Are they right? Am I? Daddy, please just TELL ME MORE ABOUT JESUS. I know He was the exact representation of YOU and I can trust what He said and what He did.” 
Then, I waited. I don’t know how long I waited but not long. The Spirit began to show me the “MORE”. It took me through story after story of Jesus and through each one, I saw the “MORE”. For example, the woman caught in the act of adultery. Yes, he sent all of her accusers away and saved her life but there was MORE! He himself, God in flesh, assured her that HE did not condemn her either! Before the cross, before blood was shed, God did not condemn. Mind blown, drop the mic kind of moment. Jesus, the Divine, entered into humanity to say, “condemnation is not who God is, but acceptance and compassion is!” 
Another example. The parable of the workers in the field. Some worked all day and some came along late in the day but all got the same pay. Understandably, as humans, we think this is not fair. We have a system of checks and balances, fair and unfair, right and wrong, good and bad and when that balance is off, we try to fix it. The parable shows that at the end of the day, with God, all people are entitled to the same blessing. But the MORE is that God is not keeping score. God is not comparing you to others. God is not keeping a record. God doesn’t fall into the human trap of keeping things fair or balanced. God is generous with all people! God pours out grace upon grace upon grace. Some only need a few buckets full and some need waterfalls of it but the supply never runs out and he’s not keeping tabs on how much He gave you! Just when you think you’ve used up all you deserve, MORE pours out! The flow never stops. Jesus entered into humanity to say “God doesn’t need to keep records of wrongs, He is an endless supply of love and grace.”
I could go on and on with stories of the “MORE” the Spirit opened my eyes to but I’ll save them for another day. 
I will say this though, the “MORE” is in EVERY story Jesus told and EVERY story told about Him! You read the scriptures account and you see He is good and then you look deeper and see that He is even “gooder” than you thought! 
Isn’t that how it should be with God? A journey always towards “MORE”. Just when you think you have a grasp on His goodness, He reveals MORE! Just when you think you understand His grace, He pours out MORE! Just when you think you can describe His love, there is MORE than words can contain! 
My friends, when He invites you into quiet….go! There is MORE He wants to show you. Happy Sunday beloved. 

Sunday Sheep Ponderings- April 16,2017


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Pondering today of MY crucifixion and resurrection.
I can hear the religious voices now, “Oh Wendy, this day is about Jesus, not you”. And yes, ALL the glory and credit go to Him but the benefit goes to me. 
I’ve been asking God many things about His death lately? I’ve heard man’s views and teachings on the subject for 50 years but I still had some pretty big questions. 
The common theology in the American church (but not the worldwide church) is the “depravity of man”. This is just a fancy way of saying that we are born bad. In this theology, we are always trying to become good, become Christlike, be acceptable to God. I was taught this at an early age and bought in fully to the idea that I was a wretch but if I asked Jesus into my heart, I would not be a wretch any more. 
But you know…pondering, asking questions and waiting for His answers…it changes things. 
You see, when I read the scriptures, I see a different story. I see that “I HAVE BEEN (past tense) crucified WITH Christ and that it is no longer I that live, but Christ that lives within me!” I guess the big question is this…WHEN? When was I crucified with Christ? 
 It should be an easy answer. I was crucified when Christ was. But in our fallen human thinking, we change the good news to not so good news. We add a lot of “ifs” and conditions that simply aren’t there. Then we pass along those “ifs” and conditions to our children, and so on and so on. Did you know that the idea of “asking Jesus into your heart or life” is not anywhere in scripture! Jesus never said it, Paul never said it and the gospels never said it. 
Instead, the scriptures do say that “while we were STILL SINNERS, Christ died for us.” They also say that their is a mystery that has been revealed and that mystery is that “Christ is IN us!” And they say “God was in Christ reconciling THE WORLD to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them”! 
I could go on and on listing scriptures that tell us that what happened on Good Friday and Easter morning 2000 years ago was so much bigger and so much better than even most of us believe! That Jesus came to do a job…”not condemning the world but saving it”, “destroying death”, “setting the captives free”, being an “exact representation of the Father”, and “giving us abundant life”! And when He was done, He proclaimed…”IT IS FINISHED!” DONE DEAL! He completed His mission and YOU don’t have any part in it. The glory and credit are ALL His so stop trying to give yourself credit for “believing something”, “saying a certain prayer” or declaring you are “chosen” and that others aren’t. HE is the victor and ALL of creation is His prize! 
My friends, we are all on a journey. Not a journey of making what God said true by believing it – for that would make us the decision maker. We are on a journey of awakening and believing what has always been true – the truth that God was the decision maker, and He decided to love you! 
Happy Resurrection day my friends! “BEHOLD, HE HAS MADE ALL, ALL, ALL THINGS NEW!” Now dance the dance of Freedom! Sing the song of Restoration! Live the life of Acceptance! And surrender to the peace of rest! You are loved and you are His!

Sunday Sheep Ponderings- April 9,2017


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Pondering today on guilt and the cross. Guilt – a feeling that you have done something wrong or bad or let someone down, or the state of having broken a law.
I was one of those kids that wanted to please. If a teacher got on to me in school, I would cry. I wanted to preform well and I wanted to be accepted. Guilt and shame were my constant companions, little voices constantly whispering in my ear that I was not good enough. 
These pesky little voices have been around from the beginning. They whispered in Adam and Eve’s ears, “Hide from God, you are naked and you should be ashamed”. They whispered in the Children of Israel’s ears, “You better sacrifice so you can be accepted by God”. They whispered in the Pharisee’s ears, “Kill this Jesus, his teachings will make you powerless over the people.”
Because of those lying little voices, I gladly, desperately and eagerly accepted the idea that Jesus died on the cross for my “sins”, my ” missing the mark”, my ” mess ups”. I wanted Him to take my guilt and shame away. BUT…I then felt even more guilty. I had put an innocent man to death to make me feel better. I must work hard and devote my life to paying him back for this “gift”. Talk about a religious guilt trip that lasted 40+ years! 
Today, I don’t hear those destructive little voices anymore. Oh, every now and then I see them yelling from a distance to try and get my attention, but their efforts fail. I don’t see the cross, or the death of Jesus, or guilt like I used to. I don’t believe the story I used to believe. 
The story that says…God created humans. Humans disobeyed God. Humans should be ashamed. God punished humans. God must separate Himself from shameful Humans. God sent humans to hell. God needed a sacrifice to overlook humans’ filthy humanness. God needed to kill Himself to save humans from a place He created. Humans are indebted to God. God saves some humans. God sends others to hell. The end.
As I read the story now, I see things I never saw before. I notice details, words, actions that I glossed over to make the story fit my church’s teachings. And now, every time I read it, I see even more. I see a love story!
Here is the story I read now.
—————————-
God created humans in His image. God loved humans and said His creation was VERY GOOD. God enjoyed human’s company. Human’s made a mistake. God went looking for humans and covered humans’ shame. God protected humans from themselves. Humans felt separated from God because of their guilt. God accepted humans’ pointless sacrifices so humans could feel better. God was continually trying to teach humans that they were wrong about Him and they were wrong about themselves. God sent Jesus to set the record straight. God still loves and has always loved humans! God never needed sacrifices to love humans. God IS love. Humans needed sacrifices to feel worthy of God’s love. God sacrificed Himself to show human’s the depth of His love. Humans are free from the voices of guilt and shame. Humans realize that they have never been nor will ever be separated from God. Humans love God. Humans love all humans. 
—————————–
Guilt and the Cross look very different to me now and for that, I am so thankful. I look different to me now. You look different to me now. Love looks different to me now. 
Happy Sunday my friends! Oh, and I almost forgot the end of the story…
“And they all lived happily ever after!”

Sunday Sheep Ponderings- March 26,2017


#sundaysheepponderings
Pondering today on being naked.
I have the joy of watching my granddaughter when her mom and dad work. One of our favorite things to do is take off her clothes and just bask in the beauty of all those chubby baby rolls. When we take off her clothes, she just grins from ear to ear and gets so happy. Even in infancy, we long to be free! We instinctively know that we are not meant to be weighed down or hindered. Anna Kate has no shame, no insecurities, no expectations to live up to… no mindsets that make her feel unworthy. No wonder Jesus told us to come to Him as a little child! 
There is so much focus in the religious world on “sin” but I’m not sure why “sin” is so important to us. The Hebrew word for “sin”, chait, simply means to “miss”, to not hit the target in the intended spot, to make a mistake. Who hasn’t done that, right?! Sin is not a list of rights and wrongs that lead to hell. I know many of us have been taught that but it is NOT what the scriptures say. 
Ok, ok…back to being naked! So, in the garden, after Adam and Eve ate from the “Tree of the KNOWLEDGE of good and evil”, they tried to hide from God. Why did they hide??? Because they were naked. But they had always been naked and it had never bothered them before. Why now? All they had ever known was “good” and now their knowledge had changed. Their mindset had made the devastating shift from from ACCEPTED to ASHAMED. God told them not to eat from that tree because He loved them, not because He wanted to weigh them down with rules. He wanted their minds protected from the shame, guilt and condemnation that comes with trying to always hit the target in the right spot. He wanted them to enjoy the abundant life of being naked and unashamed, of being free and unhindered. 
Many (and I was one of them) believe, that what happened in the garden, unleashed the wrath of an angry God on humanity. A wrath so strong that He would need to kill his own son for it to be satisfied. That somehow, a violent murder of His own son, was the only way He could be appeased. I used much more flowery, religious words to say it, but eventually the sugar coating wore off and the harshness of my beliefs left me with a sour taste in my mouth. 
Now, I see things differently. I now look at all scripture through the eyes of love, not wrath. I see now that God never cared if they were naked. He never covered them in shame. He never condemned them but protected and loved them. In Genesis 3:11, God says to a hidden and ashamed Adam, “WHO told you that you were naked?” Do you see that? The accusation didn’t come from God! It came from Adam! And so the fall from ACCEPTED to ASHAMED began for all humanity. The knowledge of good and evil had infected our minds and forever changed the way we see ourselves and others. We became judges. And when you see yourself as a piece of crap, you behave like a piece of crap. But you are NOT a piece of CRAP! 
God has been on a mission since that day in the garden! A mission to restore your mind! A mission of turning you back from ASHAMED to ACCEPTED! A mission of LOVE not wrath! A mission of RESTORATION not condemnation! A mission of SAVING not destroying! He sent Jesus to insure that mission succeeds! Jesus is the exact representation of the Father and ACCEPTANCE, LOVE, RESTORATION AND SALVATION was His message! Jesus came to tell us that our misses (sin) don’t disqualify us, condemn us or define us! 
God didn’t murder His son, we did. When God laid down His life, He crucified ASHAMED so we can know we are UNCONDITIONALLY ACCEPTED. 
My friends, if you feel guilt, condemnation, pressure to measure up…just look at Jesus. See the unconditional love and acceptance in God’s gentle eyes! It will forever change your MIND back to where it was meant to be.
Happy Sunday Beloved! May you embrace your nakedness!