Spoken Word – When Did We Lose Our Souls?
I sit and I intently ponder
mind focused and filled with wondering
when, where, how, and why
did life become so parched and dry?
So empty of any depth or meaning
filled with loud, judgmental screaming.
Shouts of “justice” and “my rights”
verbal outbursts, tantrums, fights
all while claiming to be seeking
peace and harmony
fairness and equality
when in actuality
The order of the day has become
division and strife.
No regard for any life
save our own – me and mine.
Don’t disagree with me this time
or I’ll unload my every thought,
feeling, and selfish opinion all over you and yours.
Hiding behind computer screens
phones and social media scenes
fingers clicking furiously
to rip apart right from the seams
anyone who dares to disagree
or have individual thoughts, unique perspective,
or a mind that thinks differently, no matter how refective.
What an offensive
The “causes” of the conflicted day:
marriage for the straight or gay,
exposed nipples for baby’s meal
Are leggings real
Black lives matter.
Blue lives matter.
Lions and elephants and dog lives matter.
All lives matter.
Except of course
those that haven’t left the source
of sustenance that is their mother’s womb.
They don’t matter til they’ve crossed into the room
caught by a doc
and uttering that first crying wail.
Don’t even go there.
Refugees and aliens
Open the borders. Shut them again!
They’re dying, and starving, and being killed.
But they’ll come into our country and steal
our benefits, our jobs
Do we give it up that easily?
Fly the colored rainbow flag.
Stars and bars
No that one’s bad
Why? Because “I said” it is
since one man wore it when he did
My cause is greater than your own.
My voice is louder
passion prouder and
Damn it, I. Am. Right.
Is this what we have become?
People who scream
riot and ream
anyone and everyone over the coals
who dares to oppose
our singular views?
Closed-minded, open-mouthed expectations of compliance
with nothing but selfish reliance
on platforms that are so wrapped
in politics or personal agendas
that we’ve forgotten how to live?
How to love?
How to be simply
And allow others to be the same…
When did our hearts become so hard?
When did we lose our souls?
We must hit our knees. Get on our face.
Crawl into the secret place
where we can quietly
weepingly listen, and plead
for mercy from the One Whose bleeding
hands and feet and sword pierced side
spirit surrendered died
for every freedom and hand-crafted life
that you are targeting with strife
and vilifying accusations
Can we extend our hardened wounded souls
out to the Father to be made whole?
And cry compassionate tears for those
who are hurting
for someone to affirm that they belong.
Allow His love our hearts to pierce
and His eyes to be ours with grace so fiercely
extended to everyone bought by His death.
That bear His warm life-giving breath.
His absolute and undeserved grace.
Just as we do.
passionately pray that we can truly repent and
image, by Cheppy Japz, found at: http://fineartamerica.com/featured/empty-soul-cheppy-japz.html
“Love Wins” and the Confederate Flag
Recently we spent a week away to get a break from the stress and struggles of work/life. We had no wifi while on vacation, and perhaps that was a good thing. What I was able to see on my newsfeed – at random moments and locations during the week – made me sad and frustrated.
So much dissension. So much division. So much immaturity and selfishness.
With all of the controversy surrounding flags and gay marriage this past week It seems that, if someone disagrees with another person’s opinion/choices/convictions, then they are “hateful”, “stupid”, “prejudiced”, and to be immediately unfriended. Really?
As has been so prevalent of late, it seems that if one person flies a flag according to the heritage they’ve learned – and another sees it as a hurtful reminder of things or a symbol of division – then those two individuals cannot ever abide in the same “space” as friends, family, or comrades. The ONLY possible explanation is that one or the other is filled with hatred, bigotry, and evil.
Or if one agrees with the Supreme Court decision – and another does not – then those two individuals also cannot possibly occupy the same “space”, the same family, or the same circle of friends. One or the other of them MUST have a heart filled with spite, ugliness, and (again) hatred.
So let me make sure I’ve got this right. You cannot rightly hold a differing opinion from another person in your life. It can’t be rationally discussed. The differences can’t be reasonably heard. No agreement, compromise, or even agreement-to-disagree can be reached. Having different opinions causes such a breach in the relationship that it cannot be overcome – and the relationship is set aside because someone doesn’t think, act, believe, speak, just like you do. Is that how it is?
What a very boring, predictable, immature, and narrow-minded life that thought process dictates.
To surround oneself with only those who are a mirror image is to design a life void of creativity, challenge, and critical thinking. To only be around those who think and act as we do is to stifle any chance for growth or increasing in maturity. To demand that those you know be no different… hold no different opinion/conviction… and to characterize them with unkind and hateful labels, if they dare to think differently, is arrogant and prideful.
When you have walked every step that someone else has walked, and you have heard – and really listened to – the experiences, learnings, and cultural biases that have brought them their convictions and opinions, then, and only then, can you begin to understand whether someone’s heart is truly evil and knowingly full of hatred. I can guarantee that, the majority of the time, that is not the case.
However it’s much easier to spew venom towards someone who disagrees with us than it is to have REAL, HONEST give-and-take conversation in order to learn from one another.
Last time I checked it was entirely possible to disagree with someone’s lifestyle, choices, or thoughts and still love that person and/or treat them with respect and dignity as a God-created human being. If you find that isn’t possible, no matter which side of an issue you stand upon, perhaps a SELF-examination is needed.
Time to grow up.
Can’t We All Just Get Along?
As the internet is overrun with the story of the Duggar family’s skeletons in the closet, and Caitlyn Jenner (formerly Bruce) coming out, the opinions and commentaries are on the verge of “breaking” the internet. Opinions range from staunch defense of the Duggar Family or Jenner’s choices, to absolute outrage about the same. There are those who attribute every perceived failure to Obama and the Democrats – or to Conservatives and Republicans (which, btw, are not one in the same). Others cannot voice their opinion without it being done via creating an argument that blames the issue on religion and either the belief in God, or the lack thereof. Still others seem to have lost all sense of decorum, dignity, respect for others, or even self-respect and spew their thoughts with vile words, profanity, and crass indifference to the feelings of any family members who may be hurt, or offended, by their damaging words. Disagreeing with “popular opinion” earns the labels of “hate mongers” or “bigot”, “Intolerant” or “ignorant”.
It’s a disturbing trend. A quick and violent shove towards mind-numbing same-ness and lack of sufferance for those who dare to be different – or at least those who dare to express their opinions that differ from the supposedly moral, or immoral, majority.
Can we put our big girl/boy britches on and grow up?!
Disagreement with an opinion, no matter how popular that opinion, does not equal “hate speech” in an intelligent and thinking society. Simply disagreeing with someone – or their lifestyle – does not indicate hatred or evil. It is entirely possible to disagree, even vehemently, yet continue to treat one another with civility, respect, dignity, and fierce love.
This, my friends, is why we were designed with a mind, will, and emotions rather than created as clones of one another all marching in the same direction and step. What would be the point and purpose?
Will we always agree? Of course not.
Should we be free to express our varying opinions? With respect, kindness, and appropriateness – absolutely.
Will we convince others to agree with our feelings? At times we may.
When someone disagrees with us, and will never agree with us, is this a sign of an evil heart or villainous motives? Come on. Really?
And this one is specifically for those who claim “Christ-follower”….
Is it our responsibility to condemn others “outside the faith”, convince them of perceived wrongs, and convict them in the courts of our minds and social media feeds? No. It is not.
It is our responsibility to point them to the heart of Christ through our own actions, words, faith, and evident love. The rest is between them and their Father, God.
Why intolerantly crying for tolerance – from either side of the opinion – when what we really want is for everyone to think, act, and be as we are or they’re wrong, Wrong, WRONG?
For the sake of intelligent thought and growing up, let’s give room for mature and civil disagreement without cutting people off, arrogantly “unfriending” those who have other opinions, calling names, and resorting to overall petty immature arguments.
PS Christ-followers: (Holding fellow Christ-followers accountable to scripture is another thing entirely. We’d better be doing that – with all love and humility – or we can’t truly love one another well)
God Can’t Make Me Sick
God can’t – won’t – doesn’t make me sick. He cannot do so.
I’ve known good people who got sick. I’ve known not-so-good people who got sick. And I’ve known Godly people who got sick unto death.
I’ve also heard, at times, someone say “God made me sick”, God caused this for His purposes”, or “God must’ve needed another angel” when someone has died.
If I said “I hate to disagree” I would be dishonest. I don’t hate to disagree. I, very adamantly, disagree with the notion that God makes us sick or needs us in Heaven and so He causes us to suffer with agonizing symptoms and to waste away miserably and painfully with our families/friends aching as we die. That is the opposite of the heart of Christ. And Jesus – very boldly – said “If you’ve seen Me, you’ve seen My Father”.
When Jesus walked the earth, He. Healed.
“Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.” – Matthew 4:23
“…who had come to hear Him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were being cured. And all the people were trying to touch Him, for power was coming from Him and healing them all.” – Luke 6:18-19
“but the crowds… followed him. He welcomed them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed healing.” – Luke 9:11
There are no instances where Christ made someone sick, or caused someone to be sick. None.
There are no instances where Christ caused someone’s death because God “needed them”. Matter of fact, Lazarus died and Jesus raised him up. Four. Days. Later.
AND, Elijah and Enoch simply went to be with the God of the Heavens. They weren’t stricken with a disease and painfully suffer until they died. They “went to be” with God. Moses, Methusaleh, Adam, Joseph, the list goes on of those who knew God and simply lived until they died. They lived their years of promise and their bodies “resigned” so that they could be with the God Who made them.
Nope. God doesn’t make me sick. He can’t. It would require that He go against His own character, which would make Him dishonest. And God is not able to lie. He is not capable of darkness. There is no sickness or death in Him.
Then where does sickness originate?
As Christ-followers…. actually, as human beings created in the image of God, we have an enemy. From the time that Adam and Eve were created to this day, the “enemy of our Spirit” – in other words Satan (yes, he does exist) – has sought to prevent us from drawing close to God, from trusting God, from understanding His fierce love, and from receiving His undeserved yet freely given grace. He has fought, rather warred, against mankind in an effort to keep us from what he no longer has – a relationship with and direct access to God.
And when Adam and Eve disobeyed God they opened the way for sin, disobedience, disease, and death to enter into the life of every man who would follow. Sin. Darkness. Death. They all entered this, now fallen, world and were followed by natural consequences and all things “bad”.
Why did God allow it? Why were these things given entrance into the world? Because man chose. Man chose to disobey and, therefore, to allow the spirit that was contrary to God’s to come into the world.
Why does God allow good, Godly, people to suffer with sickness? I don’t know why some are supernaturally healed and others remain ill. I don’t know why some are miraculously preserved from death and others join God too early. I don’t know. And neither does anyone else.
There are some things we don’t understand. But what we should understand is (again) where Christ said “If you’ve seen me you’ve seen My Father”. We should understand how the disciples continued to affect the world like Christ and they healed others in His name. They didn’t cause others to be sick. They didn’t wish sickness on anyone. They DID admonish, at times after healing someone, to go and change the habits/patterns of life or suffer consequences worse than the original sickness. However, the disciples never prayed for someone to get sick or gave them a sickness. They followed Christ’s example and healed… cured… those who were diseased.
If you believe that God caused you to be sick, or made you sick, then why ask others to pray for you to be healed? Wouldn’t that be asking God to go against Himself? Seems like a waste. Or a contradiction.
“Every GOOD and PERFECT gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” – James 1:17
“…Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him. Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.…” – James 5:14-16
Whose Approval Do You Seek?
“I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him. How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?” – Jesus (John 5:43-44)
Ouch! How often do we “receive glory” from one another – in the form of adulation, approval, applause, affirmation and adoration – and place that “glory”, or opinion, above the opinion that Christ holds of us?
We will receive the praise, and even criticisms, of man and take it to heart, allowing it to inflate our heads or damage our souls. However, when Christ says that He loves us, we question how that is possible. After all, we KNOW ourselves. And when Christ says that we are forgiven from our past and that He “remembers our sins no more” when we repent, we refuse to receive that forgiveness and, instead, allow our minds to be tortuously haunted by the enemy of our souls who would like nothing more than for us to be running scared and beaten by guilt and shame.
OR when His Holy Spirit reminds us of things in our lives that are keeping us from drawing near to Christ – or becoming more like Him – yet friends/family/society says “Its okay”, “Its no big deal”, or the ever-popular “Its your life/body do what feels right”, we receive the “glory” from man instead of the loving admonition from God… because it’s easier, more comfortable, and MUCH more pleasing to our ears and ego.
As long as our most valuable approval comes from men then we will never, not EVER, recognize and relax in who God created us to be. Which means that we will never, not EVER, be comfortable in our own skin or with our own unique set of gifts/talents.
What a miserable way to live… constantly changing opinions, convictions, and even appearance, to avoid being beaten around the head by the ever-wavering opinions of man.
Regarding our pasts:
For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. – Psalm 139:13-16
In other words He KNOWs us better than we know ourselves
Regarding our value to Him:
This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. – 1 John 4:10
And although He KNOWs us – and everything we have ever done or said – He still sacrificed Christ for us
Regarding His love for us:
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 8:38-39
He loves us and – despite things that we have said or done that may have wounded His heart or the hearts and lives of others – He never stops loving us.
Regarding His sacrifice for us:
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—BY GRACE YOU HAVE BEEN SAVED…..For by grace you have been saved through faith. And THIS IS NOT YOUR OWN DOING; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. – Ephesians 2:4-9 (ESV)
No, we truly didn’t deserve His sacrifice. Yet He gave His own life for us – in our undeserving state – because of His great love. If we deserved it, or could earn it, then Christ’s sacrifice was for naught.
Regarding our “nows” and our futures:
This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! – 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NLT)
And when we receive His undeserved GRACE and FORGIVENESS, and commit our lives to following His will… not perfectly, but with the purpose of becoming like Him… then our past is no longer thought of by Him
When we open our hearts and minds to understand that Christ GAVE Himself up to one of the most painful, shameful, “senseless” deaths in order that we might recognize how very much He treasures us, what sense does it make to seek the adulation… the “glory”… of man instead of the approval of God?
And why put the words/opinions of man above the words/opinions of God – Who gave all that we might rest in who HE created us to be?
In Galatians 1:10 Paul writes: “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.”
Go back and read Romans 8:28-29 again…….. Seriously. Go read it…….
These 2 verses remind us that there is nothing that we can do to change how very much we are loved by Christ.
The love of man changes as quickly as the seasons and is as unstable as the winds.
The love of God never wavers.
Receive His “glory” and grace. Accept yourself how HE sees you.
Allow HIS opinion to be what governs your mind, will, emotions, actions, and speech. You may find yourself enjoying the freedom. I pray that you will. ❤
My Last 2.5 Years as a Teacher at Y.A.L.E.
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.
Pardon my cynicism, but can we please stop talking and do something?
“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?
We All Are Peter
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
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?
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I’ve sat this evening and pondered on the God-given, mercy-motivated, heart-full-of-love induced, grace that has been offered to me… and to you. And I have wondered…
Where could I be? Where SHOULD I be? Where would I be without it?
I could still be neck deep in the mistake-laden quicksand that has been my past. Struggling and striving to pull myself out of the muck and mire, yet also wanting to let the depths swallow me as I give up the fight with the darkness.
I should be lying stripped and marred in the dust by the side of life’s fractured and fragmented highway. Ashamed to lift my head because of the bruises and violent handprints from the times that I’ve been beaten up by the enemy.
I would be still wounded, insecure, looking for an enemy, while plodding through the day-to-day. I would be barely able to stand from the weight of rejection and fear of the self-perceived ugliness in the mirror.
If I dwelt upon my coulda, shoulda, woulda’s, I could – realistically – reasonably – relinquish hope for a joyful, purposeful, impacting existance. There would be no shame or blame in pitching a tent and deciding to resign and retire from life… if my coulda, shoulda, woulda’s were all that there was in my earth-encumbered journey.
But for the grace of God.
The God of grace observed every mistake I would make, before I existed. He had prior knowledge of what a damaged, baggage carrying, woman I would become. He was fully aware of how hard and fast I would run away from Him because I was furious at the injustice of life, unreliability of human love, and the injurious nature of ministry. And yet He saw me as precious and worthy of Him.
His heart-borne, blood-spilled, love-filled, grace opens its gates and allows me to walk through – with my head held high in spite of where I’ve been – and rest in the meadows of His forgiveness and peace. He will repair the brokenness in my bones, and the winds of His breath will restore life to my soul. If I am willing, the rivers of His Spirit will soothe my wounds and then stir me to action with the gifts and talents that HE created within me – to lead others into this place of safety. This dwelling in peace.
This… GraceLand where He is King.
Such and amazing place of grace.
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. – Romans 5:1-2