My son and I were recently discussing the current cultural fad of crying for tolerance while being completely intolerant of anyone who dares to disagree with an individual’s particular views, lifestyle choices, beliefs, etc. We were both explaining our frustrations with the immaturity that is so evidently displayed by those who demand that one think, act, or believe exactly as they do or else be given the moniker “Intolerant Bigot!” or the like. And then there’s the ever over-used, misquoted and misrepresentation of Christ’s words “Judge not” if one dares to speak a word of dissension with a popular opinion.
We both find it amazing that so many are completely blind to their intolerant “tolerance” and are so very narrow-minded and arrogant that they are unable to entertain, or even calmly listen to, a differing perspective – and will vehemently debate that theirs is the only right perception – all while hurling insults and infantile name-calling towards the offender who dares to not share their opinion. Simply, and discouragingly, amazing.
While talking about the increasingly argumentative nature of society and their intolerance for varied viewpoints, I said simply “Don’t cast your pearls before swine. It’s not worth the argument.” This got me thinking (a dangerous thing at times) about the nature of swine and what this portion of scripture could possibly mean.
Consider: Swine will eat anything. They have no discernment or discriminating tastes. Whatever is placed in front of the swine, if hungry, will be devoured. A swine will eat until he is full, but as soon as there is a vacancy in his stomach, he will devour whatever else is immediately available to satisfy his hunger urge. Isn’t this a picture of what has become of our society? Whatever is most visible, and touted as important most often, is grabbed hold of and devoured by indiscriminate people who swallow it all without question and then look round for the next great outcry that they can scarf up to feed their hunger for drama and self-importance.
The government says that an issue is critical (like, for instance, a flag) and throws out its “feed”, filled with vilifying language, particles of semi-true information, and subtle innuendos that all who don’t swallow the hand-fed swill are hateful and bigoted folk. So society gobbles it up without bothering to examine what they’re devouring for corruption, rottenness, or truth-vacant toxins.
“Religion” throws out the seeds of dissension and animosity, under the guise of “righteousness” and “favor”, and demands that others live up to impossibly perfect-looking standards created in the mind of a pompous (not pious) human who claims to be speaking for God. However, the example being set is a far cry from the examples of grace, love, humility, and even truly righteous judgment – given by Christ. Yet because it is peppered with improper scripture and seasoned with legalism disguised as holiness, it is gobbled up almost madly by those who are naive and emotionally vulnerable – only to be self-righteously vomited back out over others in an effort to obtain some sense of spiritual self-significance………… (Isn’t that kind of an oxymoron?)
The media feeds one-sided images of violence and controversy every few days, seeming to delight in the fact that their negative, offense-stirring, hatred laced “commentaries” do nothing to improve society or encourage unity in a nation that is torn. Instead, they throw around words like “bigots”, “racist”, “intolerant”, and “prejudice” with a glibness that testifies to their belief that society is but a mass of ignorant beasts who will fight and battle for a piece of whatever has been thrown at their feet to eat. Sadly, much of society has proven the media’s belief to be true by acting like mind-numbed, illiterate swine who cannot think for themselves and are too lazy to try.
For God’s sake. When did our society become so obtuse?
Is it not obvious that society is being led to the slaughter completely engorged on the tripe with which they have been slopped? Devouring the fecal matter that is being fed by a self-aggrandizing government, some very visible but very wrong religious charlatans, and an arrogant media – all while refusing to seek out the truth buried in the filth, or to graciously allow for differing perspectives, opinions, and choices – is the norm for most these days. The crude simpletons. The “swine” of our society.
How about wading through the waste that is being offered and digging through the dung to find some balance?
How about refusing to swallow the rubbish that everyone who disagrees with you is an intolerant bigot, and give tolerant space for differences? (I thought intolerance was the refusal to accept differences anyway. But I must have gotten that wrong somehow.)
How about having intelligent conversations about important issues instead of stale squabbles about things that will be nothing more than refuse in the grand scheme of things?
Here’s one. So many things go on around us while society gnaws on and feuds over the noxious and negligible filth that we’re being malnourished with to distract. How about actually reading and researching some of the real crises happening? Things like people being slaughtered for their beliefs. Children being sold as sex-slaves. Personal agendas being passed through government – riding incognito on the coattails of a bill – that take away more of those rights everyone so adamantly cries out for… the list is long when it comes to real things we should be feeding on instead of the tripe that is so easily accessible.
Refuse to be a swine. Read. Research. Entertain opposing opinions. Listen to perspectives different from your own. Seek out truth.
You might find some real pearls of wisdom amidst all of the rubbish.
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.
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)
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….”
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?
When your words and actions can continue to be consistent – regardless of who is present, or who is no longer in your presence – that is when integrity follows you.
When your opinion of another remains the same – regardless of who is present, or who is no longer in your presence – that is when you can be trusted with relationships.
When it isn’t necessary to play the victim role or the pity card for attention – regardless of who is present, or who is no longer in your presence – that is when you are strong in character… and in internal stature.
When your personality and values do not change – regardless of who is present, or who is no longer in your presence – that is when you carry yourself with authenticity.
When you no longer need to “keep up with the Jones” – regardless of who is present, or who is no longer in your presence – that is when your security is not in things, and you have learned to be content.
When your convictions remain firm – regardless of who is present, or who is no longer in your presence – that is when your beliefs are your own, and not wavering with the winds.
When your worship and wonder of God remains outside of Sunday mornings – regardless of who is present, or who is no longer in your presence – that is when your “love relationship” is with God and not 4 walls of brick and mortar.
Who are you?
Taking no thought of who is present…… or who has walked away……..
Who are you?
Now Moses used to take the tent and pitch it outside the camp, far off from the camp, and he called it the tent of meeting. And everyone who sought the LORD would go out to the tent of meeting, which was outside the camp. Whenever Moses went out to the tent, all the people would rise up, and each would stand at his tent door, and watch Moses until he had gone into the tent. When Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the entrance of the tent, and the LORD would speak with Moses. And when all the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance of the tent, all the people would rise up and worship, each at his tent door. Thus the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. When Moses turned again into the camp, his assistant Joshua the son of Nun, a young man, would not depart from the tent. – Exodus 33:7-11
This is one of my favorite passages in scripture. Most people aren’t even aware that it is there. However, I think it is a very powerful story of worship and of the presence of God.
Every time I read this snippet of the story of Moses and the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt, I am struck by several things.
The first is in verse 7. It says that “everyone who sought the Lord would go out to the tent of meeting….”. So the tent of meeting was placed outside of the camp, but it was available for anyone who wanted to go and seek God. Anyone who wanted to be in His presence was invited to go out to the tent of meeting, at any time that they desired. However, this short passage doesn’t mention anyone going to the tent except for Moses and Joshua.
The second is that, whenever Moses would go to the tent, the people would get up and stand in the doorways of their own tents and watch for a sign that God’s presence was visiting Moses. And when they would see the pillar of cloud they would stand and worship from their own tent doors… they would worship from afar…
The people who had been rescued from the enslavement of the Egyptians, though invited, didn’t enter the tent of meeting to be in God’s presence. They stood at a distance and watched for their leader to enter God’s presence and then they worshipped without drawing near. Never experiencing His presence for themselves. Never investing themselves in taking the journey to where God’s presence was housed. Selah. (Pause and think on that)
And then there’s Moses. The passage says that God spoke to Moses face to face as a man speaks to a friend. When Moses would go out to spend time in God’s presence, then God talked with him. Personally. Intimately. Comfortably. As if speaking to a close friend.
Finally, the passage names Joshua. Scripture says that Joshua was a young man, and that he never left the tent of meeting. He, in spite of his youth, made the decision to remain where God’s presence resided. He did not leave. He literally chose to LIVE where God was. He determined that he wanted, more than anything else at that time, to spend his days – and his nights – communing with God.
Such a powerful “little” story.
In the Old Testament, the presence of God was housed in one location. The Israelites chose to remain a distance from this place and worship God without drawing near to His face and presence. They stayed, “safely”, removed from where the powerful evidence of God would appear. Joshua, on the other hand, chose to remain incessantly where God was. Night and day He sought after God.
Of the two, who do we more resemble in these advanced times? The ones who have been freed from the enslavement of the enemy, yet we worship the One Who paid for our freedom and liberty from afar? Or the one who longed to be nowhere else but face-to-face with God?
God’s presence is no longer housed in a specific tent outside the city. It is no longer inaccessible to those who refuse to leave the safety of their own comfort zone. Wherever we are, God, Himself, is there…. Scripture, in Psalm 139: 7-10 says “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.”
And Jeremiah 23:24 says “Who can hide in secret places so that I cannot see them?” declares the LORD. “Do not I fill heaven and earth?” declares the LORD.”
There is nowhere that we can go where God’s presence does not reside. His presence is in even the most secret of places. And it is our choice whether to abide… remain… LIVE in His presence, or to stand back and watch others spend time with Him, as one spends time with a close friend, and miss out on knowing Him intimately.
“You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” – Jeremiah 29:13
Don’t leave the tent.
“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. ❤
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.
“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?
Reviewing notes from the 2nd session of Catalyst, with Christine Caine, and my mind and heart are, again, challenged and convicted. Following is a cursory summary of things my spirit – and pen – “caught” from her passionate fire. (Direct quotes are in italics)
Christine shared her own recent and personal battle with cancer, surgery, and recovery. She talked about how, in order for her body to be strengthened following surgery, it was necessary for her to strengthen her core before proceeding with more strenuous exercises. She had been warned that, if she didn’t re-strengthen her core – and resumed running too early – her body would, eventually, collapse. She likened this to our spiritual life.
“If we haven’t strengthened our spiritual core, eventually our world will collapse.”
Matthew 22:34-40: 34 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.
“The typical ‘Christian’ is trying to serve God with a toxic heart, a wounded soul, and a tormented mind.” If we don’t allow His presence into these, the deepest places where we have been hurt and damaged [our core], then we cannot be capable leaders.
“We are a bunch of Christians running around wanting to change the world but not willing to be changed. Until we change ourselves we will never change the world.”
“My gift wouldn’t have taken me where my character couldn’t have kept me without a strong spiritual core.” In other words, character has to be developed, and God must be granted full access to the darkest places in our heart, soul, and mind, in order to be effective with the gifts that He has given.
Addressing the heart:
“You do what you want when it’s a passion. You do what you have to when it’s an obligation. Remember when serving God was a passion?”
If our leadership is about us and our satisfaction, our ego, and/or our self-fulfillment, then how does God fit into this? “If your heart is so full of yourself then there’s no room for Him.”
As Christ-followers, if we aren’t seeking Him passionately…. “If Jesus is not enough for His church then why would he be enough for the world?”
“Get off of Facebook and in the face of God!”
“Skinny jeans and tattoos do not make you a powerful leader for God. Being filled with the presence and power of God makes you a powerful leader!”
In reference to the soul:
When we prayed to receive Christ, our soul wasn’t instantly changed and all of the damage completely healed. Our soul was saved… redeemed… yet still needed (or needs) to be healed and restored. But many of us have locked God out of the very place that – when healed – can be stronger and so much more powerful.
“The pain of recovery is often more powerful than the pain of injury.”
“If we don’t allow God to ‘go in deep’ and heal the wounded places in our soul it will become infected and seep out, like [disgusting and oozing] pus, into your leadership.”
We go to church on Sundays and yet don’t allow God to change the deepest part of us. We don’t allow Him into our lives the rest of the week, so our souls are gasping for breath and life. “If we could stop surviving on church as if it’s life support then we could be the powerful and prophetic people we were called to be!”
And what about the mind?:
Romans 12:2 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Be ruthless about what goes into your mind! “Don’t ‘jump on the enemy’s train of thoughts of worry, negativity… fear.” 2 Timothy 1:7 says 7 for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
We often lie awake at night with our mind filled with worry and fear. We forget that “My God never sleeps or slumbers! He’s always working in every situation so God’s got this. I’m gonna get some sleep!”
And when we allow the All-Powerful, All-Knowing, Never Sleeping God access to the damaged places of our heart, soul, and mind then we become the called leaders that we were intended to be.
“The degree to which we are healed and free is the degree to which we can lead others to freedom. We reproduce who we are.”
Christine shared a story about her youngest daughter and how her husband is always telling their daughter that she is beautiful, smart, and called by God. Recently, she began attending school and a little boy was picking on her. He grabbed her “wubby” from her and said to her:”You’re ugly and you’re stupid!” To which she replied: “I am NOT! My Daddy says that I am……”
Whenever the enemy comes against us – whether in our mind, or through the words/actions of others – we remind ourselves of who God says we are. And we remind the enemy… “‘My DADDY says…..’ and we rebuke the lies of the enemy with what The Father says about us!”
Are there parts of your own heart, soul, and/or mind that you have not allowed God full access to? Pray. Ask Him. Listen for His response. And then take some “J.A.M. time” (Jesus-And-Me) and allow Him to peel back the layers of pain, and even shame, to discover the powerful core of you which yearns and longs for Him!