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sissys

I have three daughters.  I often watch them when they play.  One likes to be in charge, one like to play alone, and one likes to have all the attention.  This personality dynamic makes for some interesting games…and fights.

The one who likes to be in charge always wants control over what they will play, when, where, and how.  Her demands exasperate the loner who is not so concerned with group activities.  Just about the time when Little Miss Bossy and Little Miss By Herself begin to bark at each other, Little Miss Princess stops getting doted upon and begins to wail.

Punishment ensues.

With different personalities, there must be different kinds of correction.  If I simply say, “Stop fighting!” it doesn’t usually help them understand how they need to change.  One needs to stop being a bully.  One needs to learn how to cooperate and share.  One needs to learn how to take a backseat once in a while.  It’s my job to show them how.

Any time more than one personality tries to work together, weaknesses – which also happen to be strengths in some contexts – are revealed.  Fortunately, Jesus, in his great wisdom, is able to correct us all with one stop-fighting swipe.

“And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them.  But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant,  and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all.  For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. ” ~Mark 10:42-45

I went over this passage with the girls yesterday.  The disciples were in the middle of a very important discussion about who was going to be superior to who.  I watched Little Miss Bossy’s nose crinkle as she began to understand.  Little Miss Loner asked if she was going to have to clean her room.  Little Miss Princess quickly went to fetch her beloved blanket and inserted her thumb into her mouth instinctively.  The teacher, well, the teacher remembered what her friend had told her on the phone just a few moments before the lesson began.  (Thanks Mama Bean!)

“No one wants to be a dish rag in God’s church, but God’s church needs dish rags – people who aren’t afraid to get dirty doing what no one else wants to; cleaning the messes others leave.  A dish rag.  A small, insignificant item that is very necessary for cleansing.  These are those whom God has given to be ignoble; despised; rejected; unappreciated; outcasts – just like he was.”

“…those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you.”

It shall not be so among you.

Jesus did not come to teach people how to be the boss.  He came neither to work in the corner alone nor bow in the limelight.  Jesus came to serve and to give for the good of many – which includes being a boss, a loner, a charmer, and a dish-washer alike.  The catch is that all positions have the same goal – service.  Who are we to think we deserve a better earthly position than he?

But we do.  We do, we do, we do.  And the disciples clearly did, too.

Perhaps if every day was more like Thanksgiving, we would all get along better.  On Thanksgiving, differences are useful.  Little Miss Bossy can organize and execute.  Little Miss Loner can prep and peel.  Little Miss Princess can practice hospitality and pose for pictures.  Everyone serves.  Everyone shares.  Everyone gives.  Everyone eats – together.  Let’s face it, it’s hard to be angry when you’re busy serving, giving, and being thankful.

When we are thankful, we recognize serving others as a privilege we get to attend to rather than a burden we are obligated to complete.  When we’re ungrateful, service is a monumental roadblock on the way to selfishness.

The disciples of Jesus Christ were the only twelve human beings ever to walk the earth who got to physically hang out with God day in and day out.  What privilege!  What advantage!  What opportunity!

Were these men thankful?  Not especially, no.  They were fighting about who had the biggest britches and it led to melancholy misery where there should have been joy and thanksgiving.  Lord, help us learn from their mistakes!

Whether you are Little Miss Bossy, Little Miss Loner, Little Miss Princess, Little Miss Dish Rag, or even President Business, (as the “Lego Movie” schooled us to call Daddy) give thanks.  We are privileged to be alive.  Thanks to some fearless, faith-filled pilgrims, we are Americans!  We have an advantage over most of the known world.  We have an opportunity to know Christ and study his Word!

Lord, help us stop fighting with our own brothers and sisters.  Help us appreciate our differences and work together to serve and to give our very best to each other every day.

Happy Thanksgiving, turkeys.  Love, Little Miss Dish Rag

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d-3BJrG79IA

lorirodeheaver:

Excellent. Thank you, J.S.

Originally posted on J.S. Park:

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I want to tell you about my most horrifying church experience ever, because it began so ordinary and subtle, and I want to protect you from the nightmare I eventually woke up to.

I know there must be so many more terrible experiences at church and mine is not nearly the worst, yet I hope you’ll know that not every horror story about church happens in a cult of backwood druids sacrificing goats to chanting.  It can happen in the most mundane sort of atmosphere with a slowly tightening chokehold, until it’s too late.

Years ago, I befriended the lead pastor of a church ministry that was doing amazing things in the community and we first became friends over the phone. The pastor explained that every church in America was doing it wrong.  This really appealed to my discontent about the church culture, and our phone calls were filled…

View original 1,916 more words

friend

Confession is the place where honesty and repentance meet.  The Bible tells Christians that we ought to confess our sins not only to God, but to one another.  It’s one thing to be knowledgeable about theology and teach it.  It’s quite another to share personal failure in light of that theology while teaching it.  I would venture to say that most people, if they are anything like me, learn much more from the latter teacher than from the former.  That said, honesty and genuine public confession is not only hard to do, but also hard to find inside the church.  I do not believe it is because we do not recognize our sin.  I believe it is because of the reactions we endure when we are most honest about ourselves in the assembly.

There is an ever swinging pendulum moving through the church erring on the side of naivety, then suspicion; believing the best then thinking the worst;  superficiality then fear – all of which are understandable when seeking to be real with those who are likely to misread, mistake, misunderstand, and even misrepresent our true stories of trial and transgression.  In other words, when it comes to sin we either don’t want to know or we think we already do; we think either more highly or not highly enough of ourselves and our brothers and sisters; we either hide our real selves or we quake in our boots and bail before the words we need to share ever even come out.  And that’s just fine with everyone else because they probably really didn’t want to deal with it anyway -or so we think.

But we all have those stories.  The Bible commands us to confess that we might be healed.  The implication in James 5:16 is that if we do not confess and pray with one another specifically about our own sin, we will not be healed.  Still, the utter frustration and crippling fear that comes alongside nitty-gritty authenticity is limitless.

Therefore, at the risk of being painfully repetitive, I have a few more words to say.  I don’t want to be redundant.  Really, I don’t.  Beating a dead horse is no fun for the reader nor the writer.  But after writing on Ephesians 5 three times over the past year and considering it’s message on countless occasions of solitude, I cannot leave this text without one final hurrah.

The problem lies not in what I said.  the problem lies in what I did not say.  I wrote about the context.  I wrote about the warnings.  I wrote about the commands and I wrote about the consequences.  Theologically, I think I covered the bases relatively well – for a girl, that is, without a seminary degree or even so much as a religious sounding surname to speak of.

Honestly, though, I’m having a problem.  I cannot move on to the next passage with peace.  Every time I try, I stop.  I consider my error and I drag my full of faults and failures feet.  I end up back at the beginning of Ephesians chapter 5 and I flail around trying to figure out what fancy linguistic form will fit this fetish.

“Be imitators of God.”

That’s just the beginning of a 21 verse, 25 command discourse given by the apostle Paul.

The problem is that when I consider myself, despite the fact that I do desperately desire to imitate God, I don’t know if I veritably ever really do.  Because Paul tells me exactly what imitating God actually looks like.  He says, “walk in love.”  I walk in love – sometimes.  Really.  I want to.  But I also walk in anger sometimes.  I walk in frustration.  I walk in impatience, fear, doubt, and disillusionment, just to name a few.  I pray repetitively every day for God to help me stop being angry, frustrated, impatient, afraid, unbelieving, and disillusioned.  But the next day is often the same.  But that’s just one command.  Twenty four to go, right?

I go on in the text.  Be moral; be pure; do not covet…

Fail.  Fail.  Double fail.  I can’t even walk into Walmart without wanting something I don’t need.

…be clean; no foolish talk; no crude joking…

I’d love to believe that I’m sophisticated, classy, educated, wise, and reasonable all the time.  Well, even most of the time would work for me.  But the truth is that I’ve often been anything but.  Ignorance may indeed be my middle name.  I can’t help but recall the foolish, thoughtless words which have left my lips in days past.  And don’t even make me finish the verse where he mentions being thankful.  Doubtless I have been one of the most ungrateful, spoiled children God has ever fathered.

Don’t sweat the small stuff, right?  Problem is, no matter what people say, this stuff is not small!  Paul goes on to tell me that God’s wrath is coming because of these very things!  His wrath! You know, that force that strikes people dead without warning when they complain about the redundance of his bread showers?

Ok, now here’s the kicker: “Do not be partners with them.”

*Swallows hard*  Them?!  He’s talking about me.

And that’s where I stop.  That’s the part where I begin to wonder about all the things I thought I knew – chiefly, has he really saved me?  I’ve been all but convinced otherwise by some who say they know.  And if he hasn’t saved me, has he saved anyone at all?  I love the Bible.  I long for the truth.  Theology is the solitary subject I chose to study.  Nothing else has ever captivated me over the past two decades.  I puzzle over the height from which I fell.  I grieve over the great sin I have committed.  I console myself with the stories of David, Noah, Moses, and Peter.  Their worst failings play over in my mind like a broken record.  I wonder why God ever chose them.  I wonder why he chose me.  I realize that I am altogether terrified of the evil capabilities of my own heart.  I pray.  I confess.  I fast.  I mourn.  I seek peace and pursue it.  I repeat it all over again.  For just a moment, I find the truth.  I am that bad – and so are you.   I am far worse than any person has or ever will accuse me of being.  We are sinners.  That is why we need a Savior.  That is why we need Paul’s commands.  It is why the Ephesians needed a letter, a church, and a leader so invested in their progress that he was willing to lay down his likes, his liberty, and even his own life for the likes of them.

I do not live a life of sin, but there are times I have.  There are precious few kinds of sin I have left uncommitted – if any.  If any human is honest with himself he will conclude as much.

And that is why we must confess…in the church – to God and to each other.  We must confess.  We must stop reacting to one another’s sin as if we cannot believe it.  We must offer one another the same amount of grace that we, too, desperately need.  We must be honest about ourselves as well as with others.  And when we are, and they are, we must, must, must resolve to treat one another the way we want to be treated when we have lost a painful battle in the war against the enemy.   It’s one thing to be well versed in church culture and biblical truth.  It’s quite another to share personal failure in the midst of that background.  I would venture to say that most people, if they are anything like me, learn much more from the latter than from the former – teacher or otherwise.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P6lzTJfWdmk

Continuing on in his instructions to the Ephesian church, Paul makes clear the God-given duties of husbands and wives toward one another.  In short, they are thus: wives, submit; husbands, love.

Knowing that God would not inspire Paul with unimportant things, and that Paul had no need to command what comes natural to us, let us consider carefully what is written to us here.

Wives, submit.  Submission is surrender.  All wives are engaged in a war.  The war is not between we and our spouses.  The war is between our personal preferences, natural tendencies, selfish desires and our obedience.  Our deference is to be to our authority rather than our felt needs.  Because God has made the wives’ authority her husband as well as Christ, the focus meant to drive our every decision is this: Will this please God?  Will this please my husband?  Our duties to Christ are realized in the sacrificial acts of submitting, receiving, and obeying our husbands.

Husbands, love.  God defines this love as sacrifice, giving, and cleansing.  The husband’s sacrificial love actually leads to the progression of his wife’s sanctification.  His duty is to give all of himself solely to her as Christ does for the church, and to “wash” her with the Word of God.  The command indicates that it is the husband’s duty to nurture his wife through selfless love, provision, and teaching.

For both the husband and the wife, these instructions suggest a giving up of selfish interests in order to serve the other.  When both parties cooperate in obeying these things, their marriage becomes a picture of Christ and his bride – the church.

We will be blessed both by God and one another when we commit to honoring his ways rather than our own.  It will probably look something like this:

“The love which God requires from the husband on behalf of his wife will make amends for the subjection which he demands from her to her husband; and the prescribed subjection of the wife will be an abundant return for the love of the husband which God has made her due.”  ~Matthew Henry

big6

I’m not into movies.  I can count on one hand the movies I’d enjoy watching a second time.  Most movies violate at least two Loriland principles: 1. Don’t make me sit still 2. Don’t waste my time.  As a rule, I generally avoid movies on days that end in “y.”  I do like reeeeally like popcorn with liquid heart stop syrup, though, which just so happens to be the solitary reason why I submit myself to the theater every once in a while.

Last night was one of those nights.  We took the kids to see Big Hero 6.  With a marshmallow looking robot as the lead role, I assumed it was a tossup as to whether I’d actually be able to keep my eyelids from drooping for the entire 108 minutes.  Quite on the contrary, to my amazement, I was pleasantly surprised with the depth of this story.   I laughed, I cried, and I learned.  And, because I am generally such an anti-movie Nazi, I figure I should at least give credit where credit is due.  For a kid’s movie, Big Hero 6 was surprisingly excellent.

The story is about two very intelligent, albeit orphaned, brothers.  The younger, Hiro, is a prodigy who lacks purpose; the older, Tadashi, is a college student who goes to “nerd school” to build a robot nurse named “Baymax.”

When Tadashi is killed trying to help someone, Hiro is driven to seek revenge.  Since Baymax was designed to be a nurse, he reminds Hiro saying, “I am not fast.”  He upgrades Baymax and makes him a fighter…but with his original healing-centered programming, Baymax can do no harm.

Through a journey of anger, retaliation, revenge seeking, and helplessness, Hiro truly becomes a hero.  When Baymax refuses to comply with Hiro’s anger, corrects him in love, and reminds him of the will of his beloved brother, Hiro finds his purpose.  When Hiro lets go of vengeance towards the deceitful enemies who have robbed him of so much, he is miraculously able to save them from their own reprisals and teach them what he has learned in the process.

Big Hero 6 rightly illustrates how useless it is to return violence for injustice done to us.  It does so in a way that adults cannot miss and children can easily understand.  It requites the bloodthirst in all of us with a subtle, simple message of forgiveness and love.  Baymax teaches Hiro, and us, to turn the other cheek and apprehend (not destroy) evildoers for the sake of the common good – not personal vendettas.  Big Hero 6 is truly a masterpiece.

My Baymax is the Holy Spirit.  He is the gift left by my big brother, Jesus.  He will never allow me to do harm no matter how much I’ve been wronged.  He is not fast.  The work he is programmed for is painstakingly slow.  He refuses to comply with my anger, insists I let go of vengeance, and teaches me how to work towards the salvation, not destruction, of my enemies by ever reminding me of the one I love most – Jesus.  The Spirit of God heals what is broken in us and shows us how to do the same for others – just like Baymax did for Hiro.

Bravo, Disney.  You did it again…on the back of borrowed capital from Christianity.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l9PxOanFjxQ

After Paul describes what a life changed by Christ looks like and reminds the Ephesians that they were forgiven, he begins chapter 5 with a “therefore.”  In other words, because of these reasons – God’s forgiveness and your new life – you must “therefore” be thus and so…

What must Christians be?  Paul says this:

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. ~Ephesians 5:1-2

Imitators of God.  Because we are God’s beloved children, we are called to be like him.  Christ gave the world the most conclusive example of sacrificial love it has ever known.  Therefore, Paul tells Christians to imitate God, to walk in love, and to live sacrificial for others.  These commands are couched in familial terminology.  What child doesn’t imitate his father?  It is natural to want to do so – especially when we are loved.

Paul goes on to name quite a few things that are unnatural and forbidden for God’s children.  He tells us what we are not to be.  Paul insists that those who make their lives out of practicing sexual immorality, impurity, covetousness, filth, and foolish and crude talk have no inheritance in the kingdom of God.  He warns Christians not to be deceived because many will make light of these very things.  Do not listen to them Paul warns.  God hates sin.  A life lived justifying and dismissing fornication, homosexuality, idolatry, envy, foolishness, or even rudeness or unkind fun-making brings God’s wrath upon us.  His wrath!  These things – the things unbelievers all around us wink and smile about – are the very things that shut them – and, potentially, us - out of God’s kingdom.  Little wonder why Paul insists:

Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. ~Ephesians 5:11

Take no part!  No part.  Don’t wink at these things and look the other way when you see them.  Don’t get as close to these things as possible and expect to avoid them.  Don’t approve or applaud those who do them.  Take no part.  Expose evil for what it really is – what God says it is.  Consider all the commands Paul gives in this warning: look carefully; be wise; do not be foolish; understand God’s will; do not get drunk; be filled with the Spirit; sing hymns and psalms; give thanks; submit to one another.  And believe it, when you do, doubtless you will suffer for it just like Jesus did.

These are the everyday things we are exposed to in the world.  Every single day we have a choice.  Either we can participate and justify them or we can avoid and expose them.  The former separates us from God.  The latter proves we are his children.

Let no one deceive you.  Sin is not a non-issue.  Exposing it is your business.

Birthday Blessings

bday

“What’s your favorite word, Mommy?”

“Jesus.”

My five-year old loves to make cards for me.  They always say the same thing and I can expect at least one every day.  Somewhere, nestled between makeshift daisies (my favorite flowers), and five stick figures (my favorite family), are the words, “I love Mommy” and, of course, her name, “Maylee.”

Now, over the past couple weeks since she asked my favorite word, she always adds “Jesus” to her homemade crayon masterpieces.  Needless to say, she did not disappoint on my birthday.  Left on the counter for me was my daily dose of my daughter’s doodle drawings.

Favorite flowers.  Favorite people.  Favorite words.  What more could a mommy want?  My littlest girl is a giver.

My oldest was also true to form this year.  Three days before I dialed in new digits she was trying to offer the gift she’d gotten several weeks earlier.  Let’s just say she’s not a secret keeper.  I’m amazed she held out that long!  I finally agreed to accept the day before my birthday.  It was an angel set in my birthstone.  Ere goes good giver #2.

It was, however, my middle daughter who made me smile most on my birthday this year.

“I want to buy you a present”  Addie said.  “Can you give me some money?”  she asked.  “Can you take me to the store?” she begged.  “I want to surprise you.”

These short statements were worth more than any material item.  Willingness and desire to give reveal the true heart.  When it comes to blessing another, it really is the thought that counts most.

Still, I acquiesced.  I handed her $3 and sent her away with her grandma.  Several moments later she returned with a pair of earrings clutched tightly in her tiny hands making sure to hide her treasure from me as best she could. When we got home she wrapped them up and put them in a small bag that read, “Happy Birthday.”  A few hours later I opened up a perfect pair of silver cross earrings.

For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have. ~2 Corinthians 8:12

There is something supernaturally sweet about having an honest willingness to give coupled with an honest recognition of one’s own inability to do so unassisted.  Likewise, there is something strangely similar between the relationship of Addie’s wants and needs in regards to giving and ours in regards to giving to God.  She delicately demonstrated how our desires to please God relate to how desperately we need him to help us do so.  Our desires to please God are always directly related to how desperately we need him to help us do so.  The moment we lose touch of that reality, our gifts become utterly unacceptable regardless of personal cost.  God despises the sham of the so-called self-sufficient.

Addie’s requests reminded me of my Father – the greatest giver.  They made me think of how we cannot surprise a God who gives with what he has first given to us – doubtless with that very purpose in mind.  We cannot surprise the Giver, but we can make him smile upon our willingness.  We can bless him tremendously when we use what he has given to please and love him the way he has done for us.  We can show him our heart if we stop pretending we are able to do so apart from his help.

My husband took the girls and I to the Sight and Sound Theater in Lancaster, PA yesterday.  (He’s a great giver, too.)  We saw “Moses.”  At the end of the show, a shadowy shepherd took center stage.  Wide-eyed Maylee looked at me excitedly and said, “Mommy!  It’s your favorite word!”  Equally excited I replied, “It’s Jesus!”

As I recollected the two-hour overview of Moses’ life, I realized how human Moses really was.  For a guy who ranks right up there with Elijah and John the Baptist, Moses had quite an anger issue.  He had lots of reasons to be angry, too – right reasons.  The things that set him off were seriously unjust.  It was his reaction to that anger and retaliation against trusting the Lord with the injustice that led him to murder, repeated frustration, and blessing-stripping disobedience.  This was Moses.  Could he really have failed that bad?  He could, and he did.  God still used him.  Why?

Jesus is why.  For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have.  What Moses did not have was perfection.  All humans lack perfection.  We are utterly unacceptable, but, our willingness to give with his resources qualifies us for one reason and one reason only – He is acceptable; He is perfect.

You can’t surprise the giver but you can make him smile despite your lack and  imperfection.  So what’s your favorite word?

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