Struggling

The Facebook Facade. Aka: Will the Real “Me” Please Stand Up?

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There used to be a show on television called To Tell The Truth.  Contestants would hear the stories of 3 people, all using the same name, and would have to guess which of the 3 was “the real thing”.  The host, Bob Collyer, would then say “Would the real ……. please stand up!?”  And the suspense would build as each would pretend to stand until, finally, the REAL character would stand to the delight of whichever contestant – and television viewers – had guessed correctly.  Seems things may not have changed so much these days.

I often read and hear comments about how people are not “real” on Facebook.  There are frequent conversations about how social media sites are used as finely fabricated facades where life, with all of it’s reality and ugliness, can be hidden behind sweet sentiments, splendidly sublime statuses, and skillfully spoken scriptures.  The REAL character never even has to appear.  It’s always a guessing game for the reader or follower, wondering what’s true and what’s not.

Social media may, indeed, present the perfect opportunity to “fake it ’til you make it”.  It’s the ideal place to post only words that will present the exact image you’ve always wanted.  Paint the picture of a peaceful and loving, calm, spiritual life where the wind doesn’t blow, you’re never caught in a storm, and your relationships are love-story worthy.  Roadblocks?  What the heck are those?  They don’t exist in the smooth journey that is your social media universe on display. After all, only those who are closest to you will know if you’re presenting a glossier picture than reality.  Though they may call you out, it’s typically not in a public forum like Facebook.  And if it is, you have the power to hide it from your timeline, delete their comments, or – if it’s really critical to save face – unfriend or block them.  Social media can, indeed, be the superb symposium to be who you’ve always dreamed of being through substantial and stylishly stated scripts.

But why on earth is that even a thing?

In my not so humble opinion, that is just too much work.  Putting on airs.  Hiding behind fake personas.  Pretending to be always loving.  Always cheery.  Always mature.  Always spiritual.  With the perfect family… husband… job… budget… life… church…  In other words, lying.  Publicly.  Spreading a bald-faced, straight-up, contrived-behind-the-computer lie by presenting only the “good” parts of life.

That’s called a half-truth.  Aka: A lie.

So let’s get real.  Or rather, let ME get real for a few minutes and words.  (Because sometimes the best example we can use is ourselves.)

Yes, I post scriptures on my timeline.  I post kudos and prayers, good thoughts and feel good stories, inspirational quotes and funny anecdotes about my Shmexy and my kids.  I post it all.  And I have a strong conviction about everything that is posted under my name. I enjoy being able to connect with people this way, and giving them a little window into life with the “Ferrell fam”, or trying to inspire, teach, and lead through examples and statuses.

Does that mean that I have a cute little cookie-cutter life of bubble gum, smiley faces, and never-wavering faith?  Or a life that is always filled with roses and sweet-sounding words? Psssshh. Hardly.

I’m still a flesh and blood woman who doesn’t like her many curves, forgets to brush her teeth, and wears her bras until the underwire breaks and cuts into her flesh – just to avoid spending the ridiculous amount of money required to replace them. I’ve been known to wear unflattering spandex, mismatched socks, and torn underwear… but not at the same time.  (I know.  My husband always tells me how very sexy that is.)

I’ve also been known to smell a pair of jeans or shirt to see if it’s wearable, because who has time to do laundry every single day?  I’ve burned dinner, exploded soda cans in the freezer (just yesterday), fed the dogs cat food and the cats dog food, forgotten to clean the litter box (until a sudden “gift” in the floor somewhere reminded me), and piled up load after load of clean clothes on the pool table because I didn’t want to fold them.

There are hairballs in the corner of each step of my house because my cats are fur mongers.  I walk past them and look at them disturbed, but not enough to do anything about it right at the moment.  And my bathroom sink – that I fixed myself [insert applause here] can still be knocked off the cabinet because I’ve never silicone’d it down firmly.

I still pass unfair judgments on people, get road rage now and then, and eat fast food when I’m too lazy to cook – and regret it within minutes.  I, quite often, talk/groan/snore/make noises when I sleep.  I get angry at little things, ignore big things, and will graciously avoid conflict until it’s absolutely positively necessary… unless, of course, we’re close family.  Then it’s on like Donkey Kong if I get mad at you.

I also question God, get disheartened, worry about my children, and sometimes feel quite bitter with just how God does things. I don’t always forgive well.  I tend to be more affected by words than I should on occasion, and I spend too much time doing things that don’t really matter – like playing A-words or Text Twist on the computer.  I’ve struggled with porn addiction in my past, am still insecure about my looks, and really have to “take a chill pill” when I am suddenly interrupted while focused – because I can be so very task-oriented.

And I’m not afraid to tell any of those things.  Here, in person, or on social media.  What would be the purpose of hiding them?

Romans 8:1-2 says: “Those who enter into Christ’s being-here-for-us no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud. A new power is in operation. The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death.” (Message)

Another version says: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.” (NIV)

Relationship with Christ + Reprieval from Condemnation/Retribution = Release to be REAL

And Romans 8:33-38 says “The One who died for us—who was raised to life for us!—is in the presence of God at this very moment sticking up for us. Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture….I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.” (Message)

I. Love. This.

It says “Do you think anything is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us?… Absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love….”

So…[thoughtful posture]

If the One Who created us and gave His life for us isn’t threatened by our angry outbursts or arrogant times, doesn’t hate us for what we struggle with, and can never be so disgusted with what we’ve done that He stops loving us, then why hide who we really are?  Why hunker down behind an invisible wall, that is social media, and pretend to be something we’re not?  Who are we afraid will discover the “reality of me”?

The God of the Universe already knows us.  Really KNOWS us.  And He won’t stop loving us.  So why sweat the girl down the street who may struggle with some of the same things you do… or maybe even bigger-seeming things?

Keep posting the good things in your life!  After all, scripture says to think on -meditate on – good things. (Philippians 4:8)

Don’t stop posting verses, quotes, or sayings that inspire you, minister to you, or speak loudly to your soul. Keep encouraging yourself and others with strong words of truth.  Continue with the adorable photos of your kittens and kids.  Just season it with “real-ness”!

Give others virtual entrance into the messy, dust-covered, rooms of your house – and heart – now and then.  Authenticity is much less difficult than carrying around that shield of “superior-looking stuff” (I so wanted to use a different word there!) to make yourself look plastic-Barbie perfect.  He knows the real you.  Don’t you think it’s about time you allow others to?

Will the real “Me” please stand up?

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My Last 2.5 Years as a Teacher at Y.A.L.E.

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Today marked the end of one often frustrating, yet fulfilling, leg of this journey called life. Today marked the official end of the Y.A.L.E. program (Young Adult Life Enhancement) where I have worked since October 2012.

For the last 2.5 years I have worked with 18-21 year olds, most of whom were considered “youthful offenders” or “at risk youth” when they were underage. I was their Leadership and Lifeskills Teacher. I was their Case Manager. I was their “don’t come to me with the same problems over and over… CHANGE things” advisor.  I was their encourager. I was their “mama”.  I was their friend.

“But you can’t be a friend to your clients”, the age-old mantra says.  Really?  You can’t?  Oh but, there are times when you must.

You see, a friend loves in spite of………. They’re not a “yes man”, agreeing with everything that you do or say in order to stay in your good graces, but a friend will tell the truth, and often disagree, even when it’s most painful to hear.  A friend sees through the bravado and posturing, listens past the words, and reaches in to get to the heart of an issue. A friend lays down his/her life for others.  And a true friend sticks closer than a brother.

Many of the students that I spent the last few seasons with had no brother.  Many had lost family at the hands of another through street or domestic violence. Some had lost family due to their own mishandling of life and they had shoved them away with their anger, violence, or drug use.  Others had lost family to mental health issues – whether the family member’s or their own – it didn’t matter, they were lost.  And then there were those who still lived at home with family.  Or perhaps I should restate that… there were those who still inhabited the same four walls as those who have borne the same blood yet were not safe, nurtured, or appreciated there.  They had no brother.  They had no real “home”.

These were the lives of our students.  And so we, the staff, became their friends who stuck closer than a brother.

There were the days when we got to celebrate with a student who passed a portion of their GED – or that all important final test was completed with a pass. Days when one (or several) completed a training certification, graduated from high school, or enrolled in college or trade school – and really attended. Perhaps it was that a student handled their anger in a more appropriate way, or approached a conflict with calm but direct words instead of weapons of flesh and steel.  Or when one of our students got a job, drivers license, first car, or the keys to the first place of their own.   Oh the celebration!  Some students would quietly stand holding evidence of their accomplishment, but the grin that was spread across their face spoke so very loudly.  Other would march proudly in the door, yelling loudly for all to hear “I passed!” or “I did it!”  There were always high fives, “I KNEW you could do it”s, and hugs all around. We did know they could do it.  Sometimes they didn’t know.

There were also the days when we cried with our students.  Like when one had to bury her child and she was but a 21-year old mother.  But more often there were the days that we cried FOR our students.  When a student told us – after a few days with us – that he had been sleeping in a slide outside at a local park when he left orientation each afternoon.  Or when another was a victim of domestic violence yet would not let us help for fear of being “alone again”.  And I won’t soon forget the 6-foot tall, strong-in-body, young man who told us he was “lost” and had no idea where to even start to change his life, tears ran down his face, and ours ran unchecked as well as we talked about options for the taking, possible solutions, and hope.

There were oh-so-fascinating days when we were able to take our students outside of a staunch and stifling setting and get them out into the world, where many of them had never been.  We laughed belly laughs when a student saw a real live cow for the first time and referenced a Wrong Turn movie when we took him to the country.  We huffed and puffed and then watched faces light up in wonder when we hiked The Cascades.  We walked and talked about futures and dreams when we took them to RU and VT campuses – places many had only heard tale of.  We played basketball, served the community, saw the Globetrotters.  Our students shone like stars with their talents and service at a local Black History celebration.  And we whooped and hollered, with shouts and cheers, when some conquered their fears on ziplines, high ropes, and even in canoes.

But the most heart-gripping of all were those days – and sometimes nights – that were consumed with reading and watching the news, listening to the “street gossip”, making phone call after phone call, and waiting with baited breath to see/hear if any of our students was involved in a local news stories about youth who were perpetrators of violence or wounded victims of the same.  Despite every effort made, pretty regularly, we would get the word that “one of ours” was making headlines in the news, or sick, or homeless on the streets.

It was always a heartbreaking thing when these reports came. Hard to hear. Often hard to understand.  Because when you pour your life into someone, you want them to grab hold of the truth that – regardless of what they’ve done, or been, in the past – there is hope for something different.  Something better.  You desperately want them to “get it”.  You want them to understand, without question, that there is at least one “someone” who believes in them, loves them, hopes for them.  And you want that understanding to empower them to change… to choose a better course that may be difficult due to unfamiliarity, yet knowing that they can handle it because they are strong.

I’ve witnessed many a changed course while working with Y.A.L.E..  Many causes for grand celebration.  I can list every success with absolute joy and pride for the young men and young ladies who did, indeed, “get it” and squared their shoulders and determined they were worth – and capable of – so much more than their past.

And I’ve witnessed many who, it seems, don’t have the strength to shake off the iron grip that holds them, like the hands of a captor covering their eyes and strangling the life out of them, pulling them back into their past.  It’s life and comfort for them.  It’s all that they’ve known.

One of my students shot another of my students last night.  He’s one who can’t quite summon the courage to escape the fingers of the grip of his past to break free into something better.  Something different.  For some like this young man – although the consequences will be, ultimately, much harder to live with – the security of living what they know is much easier than risking ridicule and retribution with change.

So there’s a glimpse into my season with Y.A.L.E..  Celebrations and heart-breaks. Conversations and consternations. Graduations and GEDs. Adventures and awards. Courtrooms, jail cells, and funerals.

Given the chance I might do things differently.  I would be more firm – or more gentle – with some.  I’d try one more home-visit in an effort to get through to someone.  I’d push for more outings and adventures where our students could experience things they hadn’t before.  But one thing that I couldn’t change is how much I love and believe in each and every one of those 100 that crossed my path through this job.

Did it change things for them?  Some it did.  Others, I may never know.  But what I DO know is that love never fails.  And sometime, somewhere down the road, that love that was shown will come back to mind and maybe, just maybe, it will spark something in them where they can begin to fully recognize that they are valuable, capable, believed in, and loved.

2.5 years of my life as a teacher.  I wouldn’t trade a minute of it.

We All Are Peter

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Ever read a scripture passage that reached into your soul a grabbed hold with an iron grip as if to say “Pay attention to me! I have something for you!”?

This past week I was reading and came across a passage like this. When the women had gone to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body, they encountered a man who told them Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell His disciples and Peter ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’” – Mark 16:6-7

Go and tell His disciples…. and Peter.  In my mind this implied that Peter was being mentioned separately from the disciples possibly due to his sin of denying Christ 3x.

However, every Commentary that I read indicated otherwise.  They all agreed that Peter was not be distinguished from the disciples, but instead was Peter was being singled out to assure that he was informed along with the other disciples… to guarantee that he was included in this report of Christ’s resurrection and His promise that He would come to them again.

Peter’s name was called out to make certain that he knew he was included in the invitation to meet with Christ once again.

I can only imagine how his heart must have skipped when his name was called.  Such a mixture of excitement, anticipation, fear, and guilt.  He had, after all, sworn and uttered curses as he denied even knowing who Christ was in the midst of the God-man’s most physically/emotionally demanding… potentially damaging… days on Earth.  He had abandoned Christ. Turned his back on the Christ that he had walked with, talked with, ate with, slept beside, been taught by, and even been called by.  Peter had refused to acknowledge the One Who had – with all patience and understanding – seen the potential in Peter’s strong-will, brash personality, and impulsivity.

Peter had sworn he knew no such man called “Christ”. Three. Scandalous. Times.

And yet, Peter was being called out by the same, Christ, and acknowledged as His in the presence of all the other disciples… who, most assuredly, knew of his shameful denials.

Scripture later records that Christ appeared to the disciples when they were fishing and John recognized Who was on the shore. And rather than waiting for the rest of the disciples to row there in their boat – for that would take to long –  Peter jumped from the boat and began to swim to shore (is it any wonder with his impulsive nature?).  He wanted to be in the presence of Jesus.

Christ waited until all the disciples were together and had shared a meal.  He then called Peter’s name again. He singled him out once again in the presence of the others.  Imagine… “Peter?”

Was He going to rebuke Peter for his sinful, slap in the face, spurning?  Would he point out how Peter had denied Him and then, publicly, announce that he was no longer chosen to represent Christ?  After all, how could he?

How could Christ, in all good conscience, allow Peter to represent Him and His cause knowing that Peter had stood before many and, cursing and swearing, joined in His ridicule and refused to acknowledge his relationship with Him ?  How could the hand of God continue to anoint Peter’s life with such a blatant rejection?  So many thoughts and emotions must have been leaving footprints on Peter’s mind and heart.

“Peter”  “Yes, Lord?”

“Do you love me?”

Three times Christ asked if Peter loved Him. Scripture says that Peter was hurt because Christ asked him the third time.  Could it have been another painful reminder of Peter’s 3 rebuffs?

“Lord, You know all things.  You know that I love You”

And Christ, for the 3rd time, reaffirmed Peter’s calling to “feed My lambs”… to minister to those who are lost and hurting… to those who have no Shepherd.

“Lord, You know all things”…..

Indeed He does.

Christ knows all things.  He knows that we are human.  He knows that we make mistakes.  He knows that we even, at times, reject or spurn His place in our life with our actions and/or words.  He knows.

And yet, just like Peter, He continues to call out our name.  He continues to let us know that if our heart is still trying to find Him through the dense fog of shame that can cloud our view of Him… if we are still seeking His light in the midst of our own mental and emotional darkness… if we are willing to jump out of the boat and “swim” towards Him – not waiting for things to be just right or others to come along with us… if our response is that pain-filled, guilt-ridden, cry of “Lord, you know all things.  You KNOW that I love you”… then, in spite of our sin, He calls out our name and reminds us that we remain called, appointed, chosen, His.

 

Such marvelous Grace.

 

Me, Myself, and My Messiah Complex

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I’ve got it and I’ve got it bad.

No, it’s not split personality disorder.  Not a sad case of the blues.  I’m not madly in love with someone other than my husband… well, except for myself sometimes.

I’ve got a messiah complex.  A ridiculously inaccurate messiah complex.

It’s my responsibility to save things and fix people. Every. Single. Day.

The world can’t survive without me.  At least that seems to be what I subconsciously tell myself at times.

My students and co-workers will be lost if I take a day off.  Things at church might not go smoothly if I miss a Sunday… or a leaders meeting.  If I say no to an invitation with family it might upset things. My input is important in most any situation. My opinion valid. My perspective pretty awesome and accurate.  My way, quite often, the most reasonable and practical – the wisest way.

See?  I have placed myself on an imaginary pedestal without even realizing it.  I unconsciously believe that I am the all-knowing, troubleshooter of the totality of what is wrong in life.  The ever-wise moderator of relationships and conflicting conversations.  The oracle who sees the errors of ways.  The prophet who speaks the hard-hearing truth.

I have set myself in a high place in my own mind.  I have assumed the position of savior of the world. … again.

There have been several times, in my life, when I have climbed up to this high and lofty mental place of honor.  Times when I wouldn’t – couldn’t – say no for fear of the world stopping if I did so.  Times when I had to be ever-present for everyone or things would forever be marred and scarred (at least in my own mind).

And each time I have gotten soundly, profoundly, and squarely, knocked off that pedestal and painfully back onto my reality-recognizing butt.

My mind, my emotions, my body, or all three at once, take control and say “enough is enough” and they forcefully set me off my feet and onto my kiester, or my back.  This is where I am forced to recognize that the world will continue to spin – tasks will still be completed – life will go on – friends, family, loved ones, students, and co-workers will survive… and possibly even thrive –  all without my influence or interference.

Although I do not believe God is the author of sickness, fatigue, breakdowns, or anything that is evil, I do believe that He allows us to crash and burn at times as a natural consequence of our own ignorance or sin.  And when I have fanned both ends of the candle flame for an endless amount of time, and there is no light left in me because I have been an improper steward of the gifts/talents that He HAS given me, then He allows me to become as a scorched and melted puddle of wax.

At that point I have a choice.  Refuse to acknowledge that I am not the end-all, be-all, messiah without which the world cannot flourish – and thus grow cold and hard as His glow extinguishes and I continue to believe I, alone, can save.  Or remain pliable, willing to be reshaped and reused by submitting to the heat of His character-molding, mind-renewing fire and the blaze of His Spirit.  Allowing myself to be ignited with the His love-shaped, grace-filled Zippo – recognizing that without Him I am nothing. And even with Him, I am simply a broken vessel of light that He has chosen to carry His spark… not to pervert His standing as Messiah and Savior of the world.

Scripture admonishes that man not think more highly of himself than he ought.  Proverbs advises that pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall.

Me, Myself, and my Messiah complex struggle with this at times and forget.  Ever been there?

 

 

Own It

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own it
Ever been blindsided by anger from someone who has misconstrued or assumed something you’ve done or said?  Unexpected, angry words hurl toward you like bullets in a drive-by, causing you to duck and cover internally in order to protect yourself.  Or, your response could be as someone who has been wounded and scarred by life and abuse and so you retaliate, firing back your own volley of venom-filled verbosity while you defend your honor and pride.

Perhaps the warrior of words has been you.  How many times have you been the violent instigator of your neighbor’s wounds because you mentally created scenarios of wrong-doing or imagined them aiming at target-shaped bull’s-eyes on your happiness or character?  So you fire off a round of white hot insults and accusations, causing soul-trauma to the victim of your word weaponry.

Any of this sound familiar?

Most of us can identify with both. Although we’ve all, most likely, been the victim of someone’s harsh and sudden criticism or irritation, we’ve also all dealt our share of oral outrage. We’ve been both the casualty of a verbal violation and the trigger happy dispatcher of uttered ammunition – probably more than once – in our lifetimes.

Truth be told, it gives us satisfaction and gratification to get things off our chest… to spew our sarcasm or anger-laden speech all over someone else.  We may even delight in the fact that our diatribe has suddenly stunned them into silence and our pride increases and ego inflates.

For some, that feeling of superior euphoria is short-lived.  There is recognition that the momentary verbose vindication deflated the spirit of another God-imagined, hand-crafted masterpiece.  The light has been extinguished from their eyes.  Their soul is wounded. Auditory arrows have been shot into their hearts and it grieves to the core.

For others, the personal pleasure and pride continues to grow.  There is refusal to admit any wrong.  Dialectical damage is ignored and the journey goes on, one day at a time, leaving bruised and battered beings in the dust… behind… where they cannot be seen.

Time to put the big girl panties, or the big boy drawers, on.

Time to own it.  Own the fact that we do, at times, allow ourselves to be used as tools of the enemy.  Time for all of us to stop playing the marred martyr and instead man – or woman – up.  Take responsibility for our own words. Admit that we have not, will not, choose to control our tongues when we are offended or anticipating attack… no matter how figmental that attack may be. Confess that we, at times, put our own need for one-upmanship over relationships and recognition of God-value in every human being.

After owning our sinful, spiteful, hateful motivations behind our agitated outbursts – and asking the God who created our targets for forgiveness – we owe a heart-felt, care-filled apology to those we’ve wounded. They deserve to have their dignity restored as we humble ourselves and acknowledge our vainglorious frenzy.  No excuses. No justification-filled reasoning.  No lengthy dissertations. Excessive words marked the genesis of this injured exchange. So keep it simple. Make an offering of a  few honest, authentic, apologetic words. This primes us, and those around us, for maturity – and allows opportunity for restoration and healing in the souls of all involved.

Own it.

Admit it.

Repent.

Apologize.

 ________________________________________________________

19 Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. 20 Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires….26 If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless. – James 1:19-20, 26

People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish, but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. 10 …Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right!….17 But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. 18 And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness. – James 3:7-18

A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. – Proverbs 15:1

Made For More, Frenemies, and Cement Shoes in the Church

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Hey Christ-follower, Ever found yourself in that in-between place where you’re not sure if the church you attend is the church where you belong?

Due to family situations, employment positions, or ministry transitions I’ve found myself swirling in the gap of longing for belonging more than once. I have also been at the place of questioning whether the church body where I have been attending is the right place for myself and/or my family.  With all of the life-altering dispositions, changing conditions, impositions, and re-positions I have found myself at both of these places more than once in the last quite-a-few years.

I remember lamenting to my counselor about my self-imposed frustrations with not trusting church leadership, feeling ignored and unappreciated as a divorced female called to ministry, and carrying around the baggage filled with my hurts imposed by “church people”.  My counselor listened patiently and then asked a dang good question.

She asked me if I had ever considered what my “absolutes” were.  What must the church absolutely do – according to my values, morals, beliefs, and convictions?  What must the church absolutely NOT do – according to the same?  And then her encouragement was that the in-betweens shouldn’t swing the pendulum towards belongingor not.  An impacting question followed by some needed, and balanced, exhortation.

Recently my soul and emotions have been, again, filled with that flustery feeling of restlessness with regards to life and ministry. It seems that the daylight occupation and crisis situations have demanded so much time and attention of late that life has resembled a breathless trek in a hamster wheel so much more than a meaningful journey of influence and inspiration.  For me, my friends, this is not what I was created for (In fact, this is not what any of us were created for).  And so, my frustration factor has increased along with my cries of “I was made for more!”

Consequently and habitually, as I have become more unsettled in my soul, I have found myself turning my dissatisfaction towards the church. Although my co-workers have long-sensed my turmoil with purposeless days, I realized I have been turning a more critical, sometimes untrusting, eye towards my community of Christ-following comrades.  After all, it’s an easier target for uneasiness and boredom than the salaried situation that supportsmy family, lifestyle, and penchant for giving “just because”.

Within the last couple of weeks I have come to several realizations based on reviewing my counselor’s questions, conversation with God, and self-examination and ego-busting.

1. I absolutely, positively, was made for more than what my life looks like at this moment.  However, in order to get to that “more” requires less… and more  Less time focused on the mundane and mind-numbing.  Less money spent on things that are pretty yet purposeless. Less energy given to emotional emergencies and perturbing pressures.  More time spent on the meaningful and missional.  More money focused on projects of principal. More energy invested in inspiring and engaging adventures.  I WAS made for more.  But making excuses for why life is less, instead of changing little things that can accomplish more, is a cop-out way of not being – doing – impacting – more.

2. Those in my community of believers are not my enemies.  Nor are they my several-faced frenemies.  They are friends. Associates. Companions.  And, most importantly, my mission mates.  Withhearts growing in God, there are few evil-hearted agents attempting to subvert the Body of Christ.  So very few vicious villains with motives to distract and deter those far from the Father. Considering my Crossroads comrades, I cannot convincingly contend that they do not wish to heal the hearts of the hurting or introduce others to the Lover Of Their Soul as passionately as I do.

These are not my enemies.  There is only one enemy of faith and community and he has no power where it is not given.

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3. When I waver in my position and am constantly looking for reasons to question my “wheres”, I am a “double-minded man (human)…unstable in all my ways”. I cannot learn contentment. I will not grow in stability and strength. I am unable to make a significant impact in the lives of others when I am earnestly scoping for greener grass.  I am uncommitted.  If I do not plant my feet and allow God to grow and increase my gifts and influence, If I do not go “all in”, then not only will my rewards be few – but my leadership leverage decreases, and my personal potential and purpose can’t produce fruit… for I have no roots.

So I’ve committed.  I’ve put on my cement shoes and I’m jumping in the water to be fully submerged in His Spirit and the sea of congregational intimacy for at least a year.  And with the plantingof my feet has come peace.  Contentment. Roots.

Will I ever be satisfied with my level of influence and leadership?  I hope not.  I hope that I continue to maintain that I was made for more, for this is a motivator to movement.  However, I must learn to be patient and content with where God has allowed me to be in order to grow and learn.  THIS is what will enable me to do, live, BE more.

 

For those who may wonder about my absolutes, they are as follows:

  1. The church must teach relationship with the heart and character of God – not the rules and regulations of man
  2. It must not twist scripture to prove man’s point – but instead teach scripture in a contextually accurate manner
  3. The church must show a heart for the hurting and seekers of truth
  4. It must accept and welcome my unique and eccentric family
  5. The church must extend grace and allow for all walks of life to be introduced to the unconditional, unfathomable love of Christ
  6. It must foster community, authenticity, and honest accountability
  7. And finally, the church must encourage the development and use of individual gifts and wirings of its members

 

 

 

Silver and Gold Have I None

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I am, quite often, asked what the Christ-like response should be when approached by someone asking for money.  I’m asked because my profession by day involves working with homeless and/or financially unstable individuals.  My response to these things tends to often disagree with the typical “social worker” view, settled into the heart by book knowledge and sometimes hardened by years of experience.

Let’s take the scenario where we encounter men/women standing at the busy intersections, with signs asking for money, waiting for vehicles to be forced to stop at the light or sign. There are typically 2 diametrically opposed responses for the driver seeing someone “begging for alms”. The first: <rolling up the window and looking straight ahead as if they won’t see> “Don’t give them any money. They’ll spend it on alcohol or drugs.” or “I don’t have any money. This feels awkward.” The second: <rolling down the window. clink. clink.> “Have a nice day.” <driving on, feeling accomplished/rewarded>.

Neither is a wrong… or right… response. Neither can be fairly judged by someone else as proper or improper. The reason for this is that one cannot judge the motive of the heart except the driver themselves.

However, let’s look at how the apostles responded in a parallel situation.

Acts 3:1-10 Now Peter and John were going up into the temple at the hour of prayer, being the ninth hour. 2 And a certain man that was lame from his mother’s womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the door of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms of them that entered into the temple; 3 who seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, asked to receive an alms. 4 And Peter, fastening his eyes upon him, with John, said, Look on us. 5 And he gave heed unto them, expecting to receive something from them. 6 But Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but what I have, that give I thee. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk. 7 And he took him by the right hand, and raised him up: and immediately his feet and his ankle-bones received strength. 8 And leaping up, he stood, and began to walk; and he entered with them into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God. 9 And all the people saw him walking and praising God: 10 and they took knowledge of him, that it was he that sat for alms at the Beautiful Gate of the temple; and they were filled with wonder and amazement at that which had happened unto him.

When the apostles were going into the temple they were confronted by a man who, daily, sat outside the gates and begged for money. Peter looked at the man and John told the man to look up – to look at them… to make eye contact with them. Requiring eye contact, or making eye contact with someone in this type of situation, is to show them respect.  To give them dignity. So the apostles’ first response was to treat the man with respect and dignify his worth as one created by God, their Father.

Scripture says that the man looked back at them expecting for them to give him money.  But Peter said “I don’t have any silver or gold.  However, what I do have I will give you. In the name of Jesus Christ, walk”. And the man’s legs were healed and he ran, jumping and leaping, with the disciples into the temple – all while thanking and praising God.

When Peter looked at the man scripture says that he “fastened his eyes upon the man”.  Peter looked intently at the man and his eyes gripped the man.  Peter didn’t see a man who needed money although that was what the man had spent most of his life begging for.  For years the man had begged for something that he could see, touch, feel.  Something that he could believe in…alms.  Something that he could use, temporarily, to meet an immediate need.  This is what had assisted the man with his survival for years.  Begging for and receiving money from people who felt sorry for him and took pity on him.

But Peter was looking beyond the beggar.  He looked beyond the request for money.  He saw past the band-aid that would temporarily cover a gaping wound in the man’s life.  Peter saw the true wound.  The true need.  The root cause of the man’s true poverty. Peter saw a disabled man with a wounded soul.  And THIS is what Peter responded to. Out of felt compassion for the man, Peter and John looked deeply at the man and recognized that giving him money would not, ultimately, help the man.  He’d been receiving money for years – yet was still crippled, was still begging, was still broken.  And so Peter offered him, instead, hope and healing.

Back to our response.  I can’t tell anyone how to respond to someone who they see asking for money.  One’s response to these situations is, entirely, between them and their God.  However, based on the apostles’ response, I can offer these words…

Outside of all else our heart should be moved with compassion for the one who is beaten down and broken in such a way that they must rely on others, or “the system”, to meet their temporal needs.  The Spirit of God on the inside of us should be pained when one of God’s masterpieces finds themselves in a situation where “begging for alms” is how they have come to survive. Our first response should be compassion. Our motivation, whatever our response, MUST be compassion when we see one who is broken and “poor” in spirit. (Luke 10:29-37)

Then, our response must be coupled with wisdom and discernment from the Father.  Like the man at the Gate Beautiful, quite often the true need has nothing to do with giving alms or money.  We may be approached by one who may, indeed, have an immediate need for sustenance of some kind.  If we have the ability to meet this need – whether we offer alms or not – that is between ourselves and God alone. However, the question begs to be asked. Will giving money satisfy our own immediate need for justification and self-satisfaction? Will giving money ultimately help?  Or will it add to the band-aids that have been applied by so many before us, to poorly cover a much deeper wound?

If we, as Christ-followers, simply apply band-aids by giving money to everyone who appears to need it, are we following the example of Christ and His apostles? Jesus, Himself, encountered people with immediate, “felt” needs constantly.  He met their needs, however then He shared hope with them… and CHALLENGED them to live life, to do life, differently. (Note: there are no accounts of Jesus giving money to meet an immediate need, but instead healing of all disease, delivering from oppression, etc.) Even when Christ fed the 3,000 and the 5,000 it was to provide sustenance in order that they could continue to receive His teachings after a long day.

In the story of Peter and John, they reached beyond money and alms into the real, soul and spirit needs of the man. They offered more than a gift of money, but a gift of healing, restoration, and hope. Not only could the man walk after receiving the true gift that Peter and John offered, but he ran, danced, rejoiced, and celebrated.  From a beaten and broken man with wounded pride, unable to lift his eyes to a smiling, leaping, whooping and hollering individual who infected other people with his joy.  All because Peter and John saw beyond the immediate, temporal, perceived need and responded with respect and dignity, true compassion, and wisdom.

For the person who has adjusted to living life relying on the generous – or guilt-ridden – gifts of others, money may seem to be what will solve their problems.  Money, or alms, may seem to be what they need most.  It may seem to be what will satisfy their “felt need”.  However, if we fasten our eyes upon them, and our heart is moved with compassion and wisdom from our Father, then we will recognize that this is a superficial fix to a deeper need.  Our giving will not just be about handing out a few dollars.  We will go beyond money and we will remove the band-aids to address the oozing, gaping wound that is the root cause of their poverty.  We will offer them dignity.  We will restore their pride. We will offer the hope that is in us, addressing the deeper need, and a extend a hand with a challenge to do differently and “rise up and walk”… willing to walk beside them when the challenge is accepted.