Sunday Sheep Ponderings – January 8,2017

Pondering today on the process. 
We’ve often heard things like, “I’m a work in progress” or “Be patient, God’s not finished with me yet”. 
I’ve been working all week on growing a natural yeast starter for my homemade bread. I’ve had to feed and monitor my starter continuously and I’ve learned way more about the science of yeast than I care to know. While diligently going through the “process” of growing the yeast…I began to ponder.
There was a beginning to my natural yeast growing process. The beginning was full of questions like, “Am I doing this right?”, “This doesn’t look like I thought it would” and “So what now?”. I think those are some of the same questions we ask ourselves when we embark on this process of “discovering God”. We have way more questions than answers and most of the time we wonder if we are doing it right. We are what they like to call, “spiritual babies”.
A few days into my yeast growing process, I had some setbacks, was pretty sure I was going to have to start over and really wanted to take the easy way out and go buy some processed, store bought yeast. Our journey, or process of discovering God, can feel the same way. We may fall short of “being a good Christian” or we may decide it is too hard to live up to these expectations we and others have put on us. We may feel like we will never get it right and we just quit. Challenges of life come along and we think to ourselves, “this isn’t working”. This is often referred to in religious circles as “spiritual backsliding” but it’s really a performance treadmill we were never meant to get on.
Four days into the process of growing my natural wheat yeast starter, I tried to use it to make a loaf of bread. It tasted ok but the texture and consistency was all wrong. It didn’t look like it was supposed to. It didn’t look like everyone else’s that were “experts”. How often do we compare our journey or our process with those around us? How often do we compare our “spiritual maturity” with others?
Six days into the process of growing my natural wheat yeast starter and I am so excited! I woke up this morning to a jar of beautifully bubbly yeast starter! It doubled in size while I was sleeping! We are finally ready to make some bread that not only taste delicious, but has a desirable consistency. The funny thing is…I feel like this is where I am personally in the process. I’ve learned to rest and let go of trying to “be” something. I fought the process for so long but now I embrace it. I don’t have to know all the answers anymore and as a matter of fact…the mystery is exciting! It’s like the yeast, I’m filled with life and it just oozes out without effort. God is living in me. He is doing the work of giving life. I “knew” that in my mind for a long time, I could quote the verses and I even had experiences that confirmed it …BUT it was still about me and my effort to be “like Him”. 

Looking to the future, I hope to report that I finally have a loaf of delicious bread! I may be tempted to say things like “I stuck it out”, “I fought the good fight”, “I finished the race”. I may be feeling pretty proud of myself, a little cocky, and all together full of myself. “I did it!” Sound like some “Christians” you know? Well, I used to be one of those “spirituality arrogant” people. I thought I had finally done enough of the requirements, finally learned the “right” way of thinking and speaking to get closer to God and silence the enemy, I knew the scriptures inside and out, I taught classes, led the prayer team…I had “arrived”. 
So what did I learn in the “process” of making my natural yeast? Well, I learned that “I” didn’t make anything. A natural process occurred between wheat flour and water. I learned that this process has been going on since the beginning of time and I just finally joined in on it. I learned that each step of the process was important. I learned that a lot of things were going on inside that mason jar that I didn’t understand or see. I learned that the process is actually fun and each step is really cool. 
And that’s not the end! I get to feed my yeast everyday to keep it healthy and thriving. And that’s how it is with our spiritual journey. We don’t arrive at an end. We are continually growing, changing, learning, unlearning. The process is ongoing and the results are beautiful. 
My friends, enjoy the process. It’s not a process of becoming something…it’s a process of discovering… who you really are and who He is that lives in you. You may not care about yeast, you may be learning a little about yeast, you may be trying to be perfect yeast, you may have given up on yeast, you may think you are an expert on yeast…it doesn’t matter where you are, because yeast “is what it is”, no matter where you are in the discovery process. God has always been, still is and will always be “God”. It is our JOY to discover His unconditional LOVE and then it is our DELIGHT to feel His LIFE bubble up inside of us! 
Happy Sunday my dearly loved friends! 

Sunday Sheep Ponderings – January 1, 2017

Happy New Years! Pondering today on “where you are”. 
I had a dream several years ago and in this dream I am in a house. I’m in a large,open concept family/kitchen/dining room with lots and lots of people. It’s loud, crowded and a little overwhelming. I want to find a QUIET place, so I go wandering. I find myself in a long hallway with a door to the left and a door to the right. The door to the left leads to a standard square bedroom with beige walls, carpet and a pair of windows. The door to the right leads to a room that is light and bright with white painted wood walls, ceilings, and floors. It contains lots of unusual roof lines, nooks and architectural features. Both are blank slates.
So I know I have a choice to make. Which room do I want to enter? I could go with the traditional room or I could try something “unique”. 
I IMMEDIATELY know that I want the “unique” room. The creativity and potential flood my senses. I get giddy inside! BUT… I can’t go in yet. Either the room is not ready for me, I am not ready for the room, or both. 
I must wait in the hallway. Really? There was nothing in the hallway. No pictures, no seating, no windows…just a hallway. Dream ends.
This dream was given to me at a time that I was in a leadership position at a mega church and world wide ministry (the large crowded room). I had been serving long hours, lots of people and with all my heart. I had experienced many moments of joy and purpose. BUT I knew in my “knower” that the season was changing and that still small voice was calling me away to a quiet place. So as I leave the large room (the mega ministry), I go searching for a new room, the next season. And while I’m given a glimpse of what the next season could be (behind the doors), I can’t yet go…I must wait in the hallway until the doors are opened. 
My friends, I lived in the hallway for a couple of years. At first, it was super frustrating….no purpose, no vision, no one but me. I was confused and even disappointed. Why would He lead me from a place of such influence and purpose to a place of “nothingness”? And then it started to happen, the hallway started to feel more comfortable. It was quiet, no distractions, no outside voices, no jobs to do, no windows, no mirrors, no people, no books, no demands, no performance, no internal politics, no striving…just me, alone with my Father. He began to teach me, or in my case, “unteach” me. He began to strip away all the layers of influence and thinking that the world, religion and others had heaped on me. The hallway had become a safe haven for my mind, my heart and my very spirit. It was truly a place of transition and transformation. It was exactly where I needed to be.
Today, I am in the “unique” room. It is a room filled with curiosity, creativity, dreams, potential, passion, giddiness and most importantly…peace. It is a pure place. It is home. It’s a place that I was always searching for but couldn’t seem to find.
My dearly loved friends, as we enter this new year of 2017, you may find yourself thriving in a bustling family room, you may find yourself in a quiet, isolated hallway, you may find yourself in a place you always longed for ….or even a place I haven’t mentioned; a wide open field, a warm bathtub, a dining table filled with wonderful food, a library filled with books, a valley filled with obstacles or a mountain top with an amazing view. WHEREVER you find yourself this year, you can KNOW this…your Father is with you. You may not understand and it may feel uncomfortable but He is with you. He is in you. He loves you. Try to resist the human urge to run to the next place, the next season, the next stop on your journey. Spend some time in the hallway. Stop along the path and rest. Hide away for a bit in His arms. Get quiet and listen as He whispers in your ear….words of life, sweet affections, mysteries revealed. The hallway can be more than you ever imagined or dreamed of. 
I will share about how each of you are a part of the wonderful, “unique” room I am in now but that’s enough pondering for today. 
My hope for myself, my family and for all of you that I consider friends is this….may you always know that you are loved, valued and treasured by the One who thought you up, created you and lives in you. May you stop striving to be accepted or blessed but may you find rest in knowing you are His and nothing and no one (even you) can ever separate you from that love. (Romans 8:38-39) 
Happy New Year! 🎊 

Sunday Sheep Ponderings- December 25,2016

Pondering today  on “SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT”. From what I can tell, humanity, has had a real problem with “stinkin thinkin” since the beginning. “Stinkin Thinkin” is not dirty thoughts but wrong, confused, untruthful thoughts. It seems to me, that starting in the garden, and all the way through to today, we just can’t seem to understand who God is. All religions of the world seem to be the result of a need that we humans have to “make things right”, “settle the score”, “even the playing field”. We’ve created gods that can only offer a vicious cycle of falling short, hating ourselves, needing guilt relief and offering sacrifice to appease. Some gods required a guilt sacrifice, some an animal sacrifice and some even human sacrifice. These gods were distant, controlling and required justice at any price. As I am typing this and pondering on the words, I even see traces of this sacrifice mentality in my beloved Christianity. My heart breaks when I see how my PERFECT, LOVING FATHER has been reduced to look like the other gods humanity has dreamed up and how I have participated in this sacrificial system. He has been portrayed through human writings, human understanding of their circumstances and human traditions as a god who required guilt, demanded justice and accepted all sacrifice…guilt, animal and finally human. 
What I’m about to type…when my eyes were opened to see it for the first time…I screamed “NO”…this messes with all I have ever believed…and yet…at my very core, the center of my being, my “knower”….it all finally made sense and peace flooded my soul, my mind and my heart. 
Perhaps, I was even seeing my Christian God, through a “stinkin thinkin” mindset. Hmmm…I’m guessing we could all do some deeper pondering on that.
And so, we arrive at Christmas! We read the traditional nativity story and we celebrate that our God has finally made a way to be appeased. That he will finally be able to look past our failures and love us. That justice will be served to a scapegoat, this little baby in a manger and He wrath will be satisfied. That the harsh Old Testament God will finally become the nice New Testament God.
Yet, I wonder. Did God send Jesus because HE NEEDED JUSTICE or ….was it because WE did? Could it be that humanity’s “stinkin thinkin” needed to be corrected? Could it be that Jesus was God’s way to SET THE RECORD STRAIGHT? Could it be that WE needed a sacrifice to feel loved and accepted? Could it be that God stooped down to our needs and met them? Could it be that man’s need for sacrifice even contaminated the message of Jesus? Caused his suffering? 
Jesus did set the record straight. He said I have come to give you life, I have come to find and save the lost, I have come to destroy your enemy (your stinkin thinkin)….I AM the Prince of PEACE! I AM the WONDERFUL Counselor! I AM your EVERLASTING FATHER! I AM the one and only mighty GOD of love! I AM like no other god you have formed or created. I AM SET APART, I AM OTHER, I AM …..LOVE. 
So in the words of the angel messengers….FEAR NOT! There is GLORIOUSLY GOOD NEWS for…ALL PEOPLE! The record has been set straight! God is finally revealed as He is truly is and YOU can get rid of that “stinkin thinkin” and KNOW that you are EXTRAVAGANTLY, UNCONDITIONALLY, PERFECTLY LOVED! Merry Christmas my so loved friends! REJOICE! Emmanuel, God is WITH us! 

Sunday Sheep Ponderings- December 18,2016

Pondering today on shepherds. There is so much in the scriptures about shepherds but I’m going to focus on two specific occurrences in the Good News according to Luke…one a parable and one an announcement. 
In the parable, the Shepherd was on the giving end of the message. He shares that a GOOD SHEPHERD will leave the 99 safe Sheep to graze on the hill and He will go find the ONE that is lost. He will search UNTIL he finds them and WHEN He rescues them, He will rejoice! Now that my friends is such good news! 
There are many among us that stay with the shepherd in calm, safe pastures. They enjoy the peace, comfort and joy of being in safe arms of their shepherd. But we all know those, and maybe we are one of those, who wander off, loose their way, get hurt, or lured away by promises of a “better” pasture or a better shepherd. 
Oh, the JOY of KNOWING that our good shepherd will NOT leave them lost! He will search UNTIL He finds them! Not even death will keep Him from finding His sheep and bringing them back home! They may run, they may fight Him, they may spit in His face BUT HIS LOVE AND KINDNESS will lead them to turn and fall into His safe arms once again!
In the announcement, the shepherds were on the receiving end of the message. Contrast them with the Pharisees. They were uneducated, lowly and spent their life protecting sheep in lonely, dangerous pastures rather than standing on a platform and preaching down to the people “below” them. It is no wonder that the message to them was “Fear not! We have GOOD news that will be for ALL PEOPLE”!!!! Shepherds, you have spent your life protecting others but today, YOU will have a Shepherd and He is the Christ! The Son of God! The PERFECT SHEPHERD that never looses His sheep! You are safe now! You are loved! You are the focus of His affection and the purpose for His existence! You will not have to go to the temple to find this Shepherd, you will find Him here, in the lonely, dangerous places…He lives among you! 
So as we approach this final week of the Christmas season, my message to you is the same as the message to the Shepherds. Wherever you are, whatever your circumstances, whether you are in green pastures or lost in the woods, your Shepherd knows your name, will never abandon you and has GOOD NEWS OF GREAT JOY for YOU!!! 
Merriest of Christmases my dearly loved fellow sheep! πŸŽ„β€οΈπŸ

(Adding reference scriptures for those who need them) 
(Luke 15:4-8)

“What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost ONE of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture and go after the one which is lost UNTIL he finds it? WHEN he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing!” 


“For the Son of man has come to save that which was lost.” 

(Luke 2:1-11)

But the angel said to them, β€œDo not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
(Matthew 18:14)

“So it is NOT THE WILL of your Father who is in the heavens that ONE of these little ones should perish.”
(Romans 8:38-39)

“For I am convinced that neither DEATH nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, NOR ANYTHING ELSE IN ALL CREATION, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Sunday Sheep Ponderings – December 11, 2016

Pondering today on John 3:16-17. I must preface this pondering with this…there are many thoughts and ideas dancing in my head as I begin to write this. Thoughts and ideas that may stir debate, doctrinal defensiveness and even outrage. Thoughts and ideas I never thought I would entertain. PLEASE DO NOT DEBATE OR PREACH ON THIS POST! My ponderings are simply that…ponderings. Questions, thoughts, open and transparent dialogue between a daughter and her Father, a creation and her creator. A quest for truth from God and not from man and answers that are free from religious tradition and bias. Maybe my ponderings will bring you peace and maybe they will bring you anger…those responses are for you to ponder on your own. 
Here we go. John 3:16-17 as translated by the NASB translators.  
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.”
This is the most quoted of all the scriptures but what does it REALLY mean? Seems straight forward but it is anything but clear. I began to research this scripture and was blown away at how complex the process was. I found “experts” that believe everything from “it was not part of the original manuscripts”, “it was originally a side note”, all the way to “it’s proof that God is not real and constantly contradicts himself”. So after reading many biblical experts, Greek translation experts, historians and theologians views… I walked away so utterly confused about this most often quoted scripture.
What strikes me the most is this … these words are used by some to share a God that has overwhelming love for all the world AND it is used by others to bring fear and punishment to those who don’t know of this God. Is this verse “good news” for all people or “good news” only for those who believe it? 
Here’s the thing…we do not have John sitting next to us to inquire of. John, did you mean that God loved all people? or God loved those who believed? or God just simply IS love? You see, the reason there are so many answers to the same question is because we don’t have the original letter. We have TRANSLATIONS of ancient writings. We have translations that differ from each other because the translators brought their limited knowledge, experiences and cultures to the translation process AND even more importantly, they translated other translations…not an original handwritten letter from John. We also have a huge gap in language and historical context. 
So with all this truth mixed in with error ….what do we make of this most popular verse of scripture? 
We get quiet with our Father. We block out all the differing opinions, the teachings we have heard from others and “expert” voices. We wait on HIS answers. 
I will share what I believe He spoke to MY heart regarding these verses and what I believe His message is to humanity. This is a heart to heart conversation that I am letting you in on …not a theology to be proven or debated.

My heart’s translation of John 3:16-17.

I love you Wendy. I love you and ALL my creation with a love that is beyond your comprehension. This love I have for all people I have created is displayed perfectly in my son, Jesus. He is the exact representation of me and you can trust that what you see Him do, is what I do. His love and acceptance of people in all walks of life is my love and acceptance. His passion to tell people they are his friend is my passion. His compassion and gentleness with those who have lost their way is my compassion and gentleness. His heartbreak over the pharisees misleading and misrepresentation of my love message is my heartbreak. His healing hand to those who are sick and hurting is my healing hand. 
Wendy, there are people who don’t believe I love them. They have either never heard of my love or they have believed lies about who I really am. They don’t know about Jesus and the love I displayed through Him. Because they don’t know of my love, they are hurting, they are hopeless, they are slowly dying inside. They are searching for something to save them from fear and loneliness. If they only knew and believed how much I love them, they would start to see things differently, they would really start to live this abundant life I have in store for them. 
Share my heart with them! I want them to know I love them! One day they will see me face to face and look into my eyes and believe that I have always loved them unconditionally but my desire is that they all would know of my love now, while in this temporal physical life too. I came to rescue them from fear and hopelessness. I came to silence the lies they have believed. I came so that they can stop beating themselves and each other up. I came to show them that they are valued, treasured and loved. I came so they can have abundant life in the here and now. I didn’t come to judge them or make them feel bad about themselves. I didn’t come to beat them over the head with their failures. I came with open arms that long to embrace them and hold them.

Don’t get tangled in theological and doctrinal weeds my friends. Run free in the wide open spaces of His love. Happy Sunday and happy pondering. 

Sunday Sheep Ponderings- December 4,2016

Pondering today on the Magi, Wise Men, Kings from the East. 
There is much to ponder on about these men. Where exactly were they from? How many were there? What was their occupation? Why was this journey so important to them that they would give up years of their lives to make it? Why and how did they make it into the story?
What I’m pondering on today is the gifts they brought; gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Why these? 
Over the years I have learned from various biblical scholars and historians that these gifts were not only symbolic but practical. Symbolically of Jesus himselfβ€”gold representing his kingship, frankincense a symbol of his priestly role, and myrrh a prefiguring of his death and embalming. Practically these gifts offered financial means to survive and medicinal uses. 
So here is my question…what would you bring? 
These gifts were brought to an earthly king. A flesh and blood man with flesh and blood needs. 
It’s like the question we ask ourselves every Christmas…what do you get for the person who has everything? 
Some would say “service” is the gift they would bring. A kind gift indeed but He doesn’t need it.
Some would say “worship” is the gift they would bring. A beautiful gift indeed but He doesn’t need it. 
Some would say “obedience’ is the gift they would bring. A noble gift indeed but He doesn’t need it.
Some would say “my resources” (time, talent and money). A generous gift indeed but He doesn’t need it. 
It seems as though everything we could offer Him, falls short. He doesn’t need any of it. That is the point!!! That is where I believe He wants us to be…empty handed and FREE. Free of a religious system that teaches us that WE need to give in order to be loved and accepted. Free from the pressure of pleasing Him. Free from the striving to do just the right thing to make Him happy. Free from the treadmill of performance. Free from trying to be the “giver”. 
You’ve heard it said, “you can’t out give God” but do you understand it? Are you constantly trying to please Him, make Him happy, concerned about disappointing Him? OR are you enjoying the gift HE gave? You see this isn’t a gift exchange. He doesn’t give us a gift and then we give one back. It’s ALL Him! He is the giver and you are the recipient, NO STRINGS ATTACHED! His gift does not cost you a thing! It is free! It is a gift that does NOT require but RESTORES. 
So today, ponder on this…are you trying to “give in order to get” with God? Do the conversations in your mind sound like this, “If I do “x”, then God will hopefully do “y”? Do you feel the pressure of, “since God has done so much for me, I should try to give back to Him”? If so, I believe we may have missed the true meaning of Christmas. 
While it is far better to give than receive with your fellow man, my prayer is that on your journey with God, you find the joy and peace of receiving without giving. 
Happy Sunday my friends! 

Sunday Sheep Ponderings- November 27,2016

Pondering today on “walking in someone else’s shoes”.
With all the election drama that has transpired over the last few months and with all the extended family togetherness the holidays bring, I find myself wondering. 
I wonder why some people see things as black while others see them as white? I wonder why some people rejoice while others are so downcast? I wonder why some people are so passionate while others are so passive? Why do some see the glass half empty while others see it half full?
So I ponder. What is it like to walk in their shoes? What joys and hurts have shaped the way they see life? What victories and defeats created their insecurities? What cultural practice or religious lense do they see life through? 
In general, many of us are quick to judge others. 

We jump to conclusions and try to read a book by its cover. We attach broad, generic labels to people who are intricately unique and valuable.
But people are worth the benefit of the doubt. They deserve 2nd and 3rd and 4th chances. We are all making our way through this journey called life. Some of our journeys look like a stroll in the park, some look like a marathon run, some a roller coaster ride and some seem to be climbing Mt. Everest and feel like they will never make it to the top. No two journeys are alike and it’s for this very reason that we should be “quick to listen and slow to speak”. We should take the time to read the book and discover the whole story.
What if…we took our shoes off and tried someone else’s on for a few steps? What if…we took a detour and walked beside someone else for a bit? What if we saw what they’ve seen? What if we felt what they feel? What if we learned what they know? What if?
I’m so thankful that the love of God can transform us from “Judge” to “Advocate”. Mine has been a long journey of judging, sentencing and punishing people. I sat on the bench ruled by religious arrogance, personal insecurity and closed mindedness. I missed so many opportunities to love others and to extend compassion and empathy. BUT that’s not the end of my story. I’m so thankful for a God who loves us unconditionally. I’m so thankful for a God who has walked EVERY step of my journey in my shoes with me. I’m thankful for a God who does not judge as people judge but sees our heart. Hearts that have loved and hearts that have lost. Hearts that have been full and hearts that are starved. Hearts that have been nurtured and hearts that have been stabbed. Hearts that He alone will revive and restore. 
So next time we are tempted to judge, label, or criticize…let’s stop, ponder, and try on a different pair of shoes. Happy Sunday my friends! Love well.