Faith

Car Clings and Commmitment

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So I Attached a cling to my car yesterday. Only the 3rd that I have put on any car in dozens of years.

I typically don’t put them on because it’s rare that I find one creative enough to be appealing for me. (However, I do have a “We will We Will WOK you” one that I plan to put on in honor of my crazy Asian Shmexy because I think it’s hysterically funny given the context of life with Jun-Jun!)

I also don’t put them on because, to me, they are a commitment. Placing a cling on your car is making a very public statement that you are committed to the cause of whatever is displayed on your vehicle…. and you will, therefore be judged according to those things.

For instance: I have never put a “Jesus fish” on my car because 1. Jesus was not a fish. 2. I have never, ever, been persecuted like the Christ-followers of old who used this symbol as a way to find one another. And 3. Although I find honking long and loudly, middle fingers, cursing/yelling at others, and other immature displays of aggressive road rage ridiculous, I have been known to look at someone with THAT look and shake my head in derision while muttering loudly about their incompetent driving and such in my not-so-far-in-the-past mild road rage days. Wouldn’t have represented the “Jesus fish” very well now, would it?

And I’ve never put a “save the tatas” cling on NOT because I don’t support breast cancer awareness – and not because I am not proud that there is a movement towards a cure – but because I participate in absolutely nothing breast-cancer-awareness related except to have that compassion for sufferers and survivors in my own heart. So why advertise as if I am passionately involved in finding a cure, running the annual race, and furiously donating money to the cause? (Put down your judgment gavel, please. And no, I don’t judge others who have all these cause-related clings because I don’t know their life. This is a PERSONAL random conviction – not one that I apply to every soul that breathes.)

Plus – even the window clings are hard to get off after a while.

Anyway – the point…
I put a cling on (No, not a Klingon) yesterday because 1. I was given it and 2. I am cautiously optimistic about being part of a place where my husband is excited to be, learning about forgiveness/character/grace, and growing. ¬†I see him growing through scripture, teachings, and the recent joining of a small group of people who talk about the realities of walking with Christ (in spite of his insecurities regarding people getting to know him and vice versa). And I’m beyond thrilled that HE is motivated to be a part. So, with his blessing, I took the plunge and attached the cling to the rear window of my car. Bam! There’s a commitment sticker on my window. Just like that.

An artistically creative cat face, an asian “punny” tribute to Queen, and an Elevation cling. Pretty strange combo for a pretty eclectic mix of a family. Well… we’re nothing if not real. ūüôā

PS – I’ll probably find a cling, one day, that honestly articulates being a real follower of Christ who is authentic, faulty, flawed, and doing their dang best but liable to make many a mistake along the way. (Contrary to all the “Christian kitschy” that is out there now.) And that one I’ll grab up and stick on there too…. and probably give away like candy.

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Pardon my cynicism, but can we please stop talking and do something?

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“Love God, love people”.

Seems to be the catchphrase of churches today. ¬†Looks great on a billboard or t-shirt. ¬†Sounds like a great mantra. ¬†Excellent quote for a bumper sticker. ¬†Blogs and books are written about it quite a lot these days. ¬†I see/hear/read that phrase everywhere of late. ¬†It’s an inspiring, healthy, scripture-based phrase. ¬†Can’t argue with that. Right?

Oh, but I can.

Last week, my daughter and I were out in our community and we pulled up to a red light. ¬†In front of us was a church with a large yard banner that read… you guessed it… “Loving God. Loving People.” I sighed and said “It’d be nice if churches did more than just post that quote everywhere”, which prompted a conversation with my daughter about the importance of doing versus simply saying something so powerful.

Church-folk, we need to have the same conversation.  Can we talk?

Can we! ¬†Churches, and church-folk, can talk a good talk. ¬†We can talk for hours on end…all about church.

We talk about inviting people to church. ¬†What the church is doing this week. What the church has challenged us to do. ¬†How much we give to the church. How the church is doing this or that this week and you¬†must come. ¬†How well the church is doing because we had this many or that many on any given day. ¬†We church-folk can¬†talk about “our” church.

And we can talk about our church leaders.

How much we don’t agree with this leader. ¬†Or how that leader is “not in their place of giftedness” (which, in non-church vernacular means that they should quit – or be removed from their position – and do something else because we think that they suck at what they’re doing). ¬†We talk about this one that’s controlling. ¬†This one’s “falling away”, or “in sin”, “not hooked up anymore”, or “struggling with something”, because they’re not doing as many things inside the four walls of the church (building) as they used to. ¬†OR we talk about our poor, pitiful, pastor and his wife. ¬†They’re so misunderstood and unsupported. ¬†Life is so difficult for them. ¬†They don’t have good “armor-bearers” and there is too much demand placed on them. ¬†They’ve got such a hard calling to minister/serve the people in the church, it’s a wonder that they stay. (Don’t get me wrong. ¬†I’ve served¬†in church leadership for over 20-some years and it’s no ball of fun at times, can be very difficult, and is – most definitely – not for the faint of heart. However, the pity parties don’t accomplish anything except division.)

We can also talk about each other.  Like. Dogs.

She doesn’t live up to¬†our standards for her life. ¬†He isn’t doing what¬†we think he should be doing (because, you know¬†we know better than he/she does regarding what God has spoken to them or intended for them). How dare they leave our church? ¬†“They’re not following God they’re following a man.” ¬†“They left us abandoned”. ¬†“Their heart isn’t right” because they left, so let’s talk about them to everyone we know that they know and see if we can’t damage their heart even more by our gossip and hurtful words.

We can talk.

We can also talk about those who don’t attend any church. Those who believe differently from us. ¬†Those who don’t WANT anything to do with church – or Christ – for whatever reason. ¬†“Those people”… “Them”… “Non-believers”… “Seekers”… “Sinners” (which, last time I checked defined every single one of us who breathes. ¬†But I digress.)… “Un-churched”. ¬†We talk about how they need to come to our church. ¬†How they need to “get connected” with¬†our groups. ¬†How “they” are going to hell. ¬†How God hates “them” and what they do.¬†¬†How “they” are wrong and we’re right. ¬†How “they” don’t act/speak/live in a way that meets our approval because¬†we “talk the talk and walk the walk”, meanwhile “they” do not even know what the heck we are¬†talking¬†about.

We talk and we talk and we talk. ¬†All while our little church logos, bumper stickers, and banners wave in the wind crying “We love God and we love people!”

It looks real nice on that church sign. ¬†And we¬†wear it proudly on our pre-washed bright colored t-shirt. ¬†But here’s a “solid” for you: Words. Mean. Nothing. Without. Actions.

Scripture says: “You shall love the Lord, Your God, with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. And love your neighbor as yourself. ¬†There is no greater commandment than these.” – Mark 12:30-31

And in James 2:14-26 we’re admonished not to just wish a “God bless you” on people in faith, but to do something to meet their practical needs.

And there’s the ever popular 1 Corinthians 13. ¬†“The love chapter”. ¬†Part of which – verses 4-8 – people quote in marriage ceremonies, public speeches, and more. ¬†However, the first 3 verses aren’t very well known. ¬†They’re a little more challenging. ¬†A little more of a “truth slap” to those of us who claim to follow Christ. ¬†Here’s a paraphrase from a recent sermon I heard about these 3 verses:

It doesn’t matter how “in tune with the Spirit” I believe that I am, if I do not love others – graciously and without expecting something in return – then I am nothing but a lot of loud noise, according to God. (- 1 Cor 13:1 para) Spiritual gifts, “experiences”, knowledge is not ultimately the point. Without love it means nothing. (- 1 Cor 13:2 para) Even if I do the most extravagant thing that I can, to show how spiritual I am, but do it for any other reason but love, it doesn’t matter. (- 1 Cor 13:3 para)

So, churches and church-folk, how about we stop talking and do something about loving God and loving people?

How about instead of expecting people to come to our fabulous, exciting, well-done, sometimes spirit-filled, church service (all of which I, personally, love attending myself, btw), we GO into all the world and share the gospel by loving others practically and meeting their needs?

How about instead of using the money that people have given – because pastors have taught them “do not mock God, but bring 10% of everything you make¬†to church first” (another post, another day) – to pad¬†a “rainy day” bank account¬†like a hoarder who doesn’t want to let the smallest thing go… how about we use some of that money to do things for the community that we are planted in and the people – both in our church and without – who have real needs? ¬†Wouldn’t that demonstrate Christ a little better than money in the bank?

Or what if, instead of starting our own “helping” organizations – that compete with the ones already proven and serving in the community – so that we can proudly boast about how we have a “Christian” soup kitchen, food pantry, clothing bank, homeless shelter, serving organization to exalt our name… what if we pooled our resources, time, and energy to come alongside those already established places¬†and “make a name for ourselves” as the church that truly gets involved by working¬†with our community organizations by providing love, support, and volunteer hours?

What if, instead of having to advertise that we “love God and love people” with printed chotchkes, stickers, and signs, it was simply known that¬†that group of people who attend¬†that church really love God and care about people, all because it was demonstrated instead of talked about?

The bottom line… Christ didn’t just talk about serving others, loving others, dying for others. ¬†He DID SOMETHING. ¬†His hands and feet were always extended to give, serve, love, help, touch, do, and provide the ultimate sacrifice for each and every one of us.

Talk is cheap. Doing something that demonstrates Christ to others is what matters. ¬†Otherwise, we’re just making noise… unpleasant, undesirable, unheeded noise with our ever-moving lips.

Again, pardon my cynicism, but can we please stop talking and actually DO something?

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‚Äôt control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless.¬†– James 1:19-20, 26

7¬†People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish,¬†8¬†but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison.¬†9¬†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. РProverbs 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.

refuse-to-be-enemy-rock

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

 

 

 

Everything Happens for a… Reasonable Objection

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I HATE the phrase “Everything happens for a reason” – especially when it is used to placate others in tragic, or difficult, situations.

No, there is not “REASON” for everything that happens.

However, THE reason that tragic/difficult/evil things happen is because we live in a world that is the target of the enemy of God…

A world where political courtesy
has taken the place of right and moral fidelity…
Where saying “the right thing” for approval and status
has taken the place of DOING the right thing because the other person matters…
It’s a time when popularity, fame, and prosperity,
trump character, honesty, and integrity…
where Jerry Springer, Judge Judy, and Maury
capture fascinations while humanity scorns a righteous man’s story…
So yes, there’s a “reason” for all that happens.¬† For every tragedy, every disaster. Every bad, sad, mad thing that’s occurred.
Simply put, we live in an immoral and corrupt world.
A world where faulty women and men ruled by selfish ambitions
put themselves on a pedestal over God and fellow humans.

Now, don’t get it twisted.¬† Don’t make a mistake.¬† Don’t under-estimate it.
The God of the Universe can take any situation, that is entrusted to Him –
given to Him,
and work in and with it.
He can “IN all things…work for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose”.¬† He can.
He will. Yet this doesn’t mean that He causes all things that happen to man.
He ALLOWS us to make choices. To exercise our will. To DO as we like.
We seem to forget that there are natural consequences to every choice that we make.

Perhaps instead of casually stating “everything happens for a reason”, one should stop
and consider
Perhaps, just perhaps,
the continuing deterioration of morality –
the slap on the wrist for blatant criminality –
the open acceptance of crass and obscene behaviors and words –
or the fascination with the violent, the ridiculous, the shocking, and the absurd –
could be “the reason”…
And along with that REASONable conjecture
stop and think what part YOU play in this juncture.

Self-examination and growth is much more fruitful and mature than placation.