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Paul has just exhorted the Philippian church to put away their differences.  He urged unity, joy in every circumstance, and anxiety in none.  He instructed them to look at the good and imitate his example.  Now, he goes on to conclude his letter with a call to contentment and thanksgiving.

Notice how Paul begins his instruction on contentment:

I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. ~Philippians 4:10

Here is a man who has been faithfully preaching and teaching the gospel for the sake of others’ souls and Christ’s call.  Each place to which he is called proves his worldly enemies increasingly more hostile.  As he sits in prison again, falsely accused and wrongfully punished, he gives thanks to a church who had, for a time, all but forgotten him.  Still, he takes no offense, or, most likely, completely overlooks their negligence and offense and instead praises them with his gratitude for what they had now given to him.  He even seems to make an excuse for their neglect recognizing that they had had “no opportunity.”

Really?  A whole church full of people to whom he had brought the gospel simply had “no opportunity” to care for him as he sit in prison?  Perhaps.  More likely, as Mr. Henry and I agree, Paul is excusing their neglect towards himself because of his own godliness.  He is refusing to take offense, though plenty enough reason for it has been given by those who should have previously loved him well.

Nevertheless, Paul rejoices.  He holds no grudge.  He dismisses every reason he has for bitterness and discontentment because he has only one goal in mind: the gospel.  Paul is not interested in fighting for rightful respect or well-deserved apologies for himself from those who have already “come around.”  The reason?  He loves them deeply.  Love covers a multitude of sin.

Let me just say that again so I don’t miss remembering it when taking offense when willful neglect in the church lands on my doorstep.

Love covers a multitude of sin.

I must choose love.  To do so, I must overlook offense.  I must assume the best, even when actions seem to speak the worst.  This is the beginning of contentment.  Dwelling on ill-treatment from brothers and sisters will steal our joy and divide our church faster than worldly persecutors ever could.  Paul knows it.  Therefore, he disregards their hurtful neglect, chalks it up to a “lack of opportunity” and rejoices that they’ve shown up at all.  Better late than never, right?

If anyone had need in the church at this point, it was Paul.  He likely needed financial support, food, material things, etc.  It’s probable that he was indigent because of his confinement.  Most of all, though, I believe he must have needed encouragement.  Still, Paul is content.  He says he has learned the secret of contentment.

 I can do all things through him who strengthens me. ~Philippians 4:13

Christ is the secret.  Christ is the source.  Christ is all and that makes him all we need.

So then, the question becomes, “Do we need?” or are we already full?

Paul needed.  But he did not beg.  He did not complain.  He did not take offense at the offensive.  He encouraged giving solely for the sake of the givers’ growth – not self indulgence or personal gains.

He ends his letter with grace.  Paul treats his imperfect church with remarkable grace.

The moral of this amazing prison-written letter to us?  Lead by example.  The only way we can ever hope to be joyful in affliction, stop complaining and taking offense, start dwelling on the good and rejoicing even when Christians disappoint and be genuinely content is to, at all costs, find the Source; draw from the Source.

 Christ alone is our Source.  Be thankful and rejoice because you know him.  Some do not have such a privilege.

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

lorirodeheaver:

Well said. Love this guy.

Originally posted on J.S. Park:

Today I’m unusually bitter and sad about people, and I’m so very tired and cynical over everything, including myself.

May I be honest here? People are people and sometimes people will drive you insane, and some days I just want to pack up and take the next spaceship off the planet.

I know I’m not supposed to say any of this because Christian bloggers and pastors are so inspirational and full of “never-give-up” pep. We love our slogans and re-tweetable one-liners. I want to be part of the cute punchy Instagrams with the sugary Christianese quotes. But days like today, I just want to give up on everyone. At times being positive makes me feel downright sick. I want to flip a table and go to sleep for a month and I look at my Bible and laugh.

People can be so maddeningly frustrating, and I know this because I…

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God’s Words

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Once upon a time a man told me I did not know God.  He said I had no love.  I looked like a bad tree as far as he could tell and telling was just what he thought he ought to do to the likes of me.  He didn’t stop with telling me the terrible tale of who he thought I was.  He believed it so much he told everyone he knew about the danger of a stained sinner such as I.

That man was right that I am a sinner, but he was wrong about me.  I am not Satan’s spawn.  I am my Father’s daughter.  I was bought with blood, buried, and born again by a Savior who knows far worse things of me than he.

Still, the wolf’s voice echoes and antagonizes me.  Today his accusations seek me once again.  I cry out to God.

I walk to the mailbox and find a letter.  “Contents mailed from a correctional facility” read the outer envelope.  My heart warmed as I thought of how very often God uses the foolish to shame the wise.  Inside I found flowers drawn with a poem instructing me to count my blessings.  Also, a letter which read this way:

My child…

I know everything about you.  I know when you sit down and when you rise up.  I am familiar with all your ways.  Even the very hairs on your head are numbered.  For you were made in my image.  In me you live and move and have your being.  For you are my offspring.  I knew you even before you were conceived.  I chose you when I planned creation.  You were not a mistake, for all your days are written in my book.  I determined the exact time of your birth and where you would live.  You are fearfully and wonderfully made.  I knit you together in  you’re mother’s womb.   And brought you forth on the day you were born.  I have been misrepresented by those who don’t know me.  I am not distant and angry, but am the complete expression of love.  And it is my desire to lavish my love on you.  Simply because you are my child and I am your Father.  I offer you more than your earthly father ever could.  For I am perfect and I meet all your needs.  My plan for your future has always been filled with hope.  Because I love you with an everlasting love.  My thoughts toward you are countless as the sand on the seashore.  And I rejoice over you with singing.  I will never stop doing good to you.  For you are my treasured possession.  I desire to establish you with all my heart and all my soul.  And I want to show you great and marvelous things.  If you seek me with all  your heart, you will find me.  Delight in me and I will give you the desires of your heart.  For it is I who gave you those desires.  I am able to do more for you than you could possibly imagine.  For I am your greatest encourager.  I am also the Father who comforts you in all your troubles.  When you are brokenhearted, I am close to you.  As a shepherd carries a lamb, I have carried you close to my heart.  One day I will wipe away every tear from your eyes.  All I’ll take away all the pain you have suffered on this earth.  I am your Father, and I love you even as I love my son, Jesus.  For in Jesus, my love for you is revealed.  He is the exact representation of my being.  He came to demonstrate that I am for you, not against you.  And to tell you that I am not counting your sins.  Jesus died so that you and I could be reconciled.  His death was the ultimate expression of my love for you.  I gave up everything I loved that I might gain your love.  Nothing will ever separate you from my love again.  I have always been Father, and I will always be Father.

Love,

Your Dad

Almighty God

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nfn79vSR2ak

The Resistor

bowl

She steps out of her shoes and into rare form.  It’s people time.  My megaphone mouthed mini me begins to melt down.

Maylee wants to bowl.  She loves bowling.  But her bowling shoes bring with them a big bawl – and I don’t mean the kind you roll.  Just like with the way too heavy bowling ball, her five year-old strength is scarcely equipped to be thrown down the alley alone.

My soon to be six year-old is an introvert.  She gets nervous around new people, unfamiliar places, and unexpected experiences.  This is a girl who, by age three, decided that opening her Christmas presents was far less important than having to hide her reaction to them.  She clams up.  She falls out.  And when all else fails, she lets her fear and fury fly the only way a normal non-social knows how.  The equation for all you analyticals like me goes something like this: mommy + volume = safety.

Yesterday was daddy’s turn, though.  As expected, despite her superhero cape, her turn came up and her countenance fell down.  All I can say is, I’m glad bowling alleys are used to a high number of decibels.

Stripping off her borrowed shoes in self-protective defiance, she began to wail.  He scooped her up swiftly and began the universal daddy fix – fast hand motion on and off the crying mouth.  After obtaining the desired mouth in front of a fan noise, the crying turned to laughter.  She lay in his lap and I watched her change.  More than a few moments mounted before the shoes went back on and the first turn was taken.  Meanwhile, I studied.  I learned.  I saw my need and I saw the solution plain as the tears running down both of our faces.

Despite the fact that I do prefer books over people any time prior to eight a. m., I am not an introvert.  Nerd, yes.  Instrospective, yes.  Introvert, not so much.  But the truth is that I have lived my entire life guarded.  I am extremely self-protective.  Where Maylee avoids social interaction, I try to control it.  I hide myself until the game is over.  Maybe everyone does to a certain extent.  I mean, we learn this.  Pain is a powerful teacher.  We swear after the first time we are rejected for being who we are that it will be the last.  We become someone else more pleasing, less pleasing, or altogether absent.  One way or another, we hide.

Little wonder!  It is a fearful thing to be vulnerable; exposed; honest about who we really are.  Rejection often gives way to isolation, anonymity, and a general superficiality with everyone all the time.

This is a problem for everyone, but it is particularly a problem for deep, analytical thinkers.  We need our schematics to connect.  Our world is very complex.  Superficiality has no place.  Our circuits must close and open properly, lest we get shocked, start a fire, or stay in the dark alone.

What we often fail to realize is that rest in Daddy’s arms is the only place true peace is found.  Even if it all made sense; even if life’s math all worked out; even if I wasn’t afraid or anxious or hurt or lonely – the only place closure and connection could truly be found would still be lying in Daddy’s lap allowing him to know me; learning to know him.

I read a blog about an old study about scientifically trying to make people fall in love recently printed in the New York Times.  (Apparently it doesn’t work for people who are already in love.  My husband and I tried it and ended up arguing.)  Anyway, the writer did get one thing right.  She said, “…the story isn’t about us; it’s about what it means to bother to know someone, which is really a story about what it means to be known.” ~Mandy Len Carton

Only my heavenly father can give me the confidence it takes to get my borrowed shoes on and throw the balls I can barely lift down life’s alley.  Because at the end of the day, that’s all our time and space in this world is – borrowed.  The things that belong to us are better.

My dad was electrical engineer.  Maybe that’s why I’m often a resistor in this circuit we call life.  I believe it’s who my heavenly father made me, though.  Without resistors, current won’t flow.  It’s not about who does or doesn’t like resistors or what we have to say.  It’s about the grand schematic and the glory to come with it.

Regardless of who he has created us to be or what our vices or voices are, the solution is always found resting in our father’s arms.  When we do so, his name is hallowed.

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

letter

I wrote on Philippians 4:2-9 this morning.  I covered all the bases that a 30-something un-ordained, amateur writing lay lady with the help of Matthew Henry might be expected to.  The message was clear.  It was truthful and as accurate as can be expected from a mere flawed human being equipped with a one track mind set on sharing the gospel and a few scattered prayers for incite and wisdom.  Then, God said no.  No sooner did the last stroke of my pen hit the paper than I heard him say, not today.  No regurgitation of facts.  Today it’s personal.  In fact, it’s always personal.  Make it so.

So, if Paul were here writing this passage to me, I’m going to tell you what he would likely say…what God is saying to us here:

Lori, this is urgent.  I beg you to listen to me.  The women around you are your sisters.  The men around you are your brothers.  You are all Christians.  You are all serving the Lord the best way you know how.  You must agree.  Allow my chosen leader to help you get along.  In order to do so, there are a couple things I need you to do.  These are not suggestions.  They are commands.

Rejoice.  Rejoice, always.  No matter what happens, rejoice.  If someone offends you, rejoice.  If they ignore you, rejoice.  If they take offense when none was given, rejoice.  If you feel taken advantage of, excluded, used, abused, or ripped off in any way by anyone inside or outside the church, rejoice.  Lori, I’m not asking you.  I’m telling you.  Rejoice.

While you’re rejoicing for the goodness you’ve been given, but do not, by any means, deserve, I need you to be reasonable.  Your feelings must not get in the way of the generosity, the forbearance, the long-suffering nature of the love that I have called you to.  There is absolutely no room for being high strung, irate, self-interested, or over bearing for any reason.  You cannot let offenses or feelings trump my call to be reasonable with everyone at all times.  This is not a suggestion.  It’s a command.

I know what you’re going to say next.  You’re going to tell me how if you do these two things under the load of stress I’ve provided for your spiritual growth that you will internalize all of the uncertainty and begin to worry about how it’s all going to turn out.  You’re going to pretend to rejoice outwardly so I will think you’re obeying.  You’re going to be outwardly kind and peaceable with those who’ve hurt you but also allow a root of bitterness to grow inside over their offenses.  That’s not going to work, Lori.  The reason is because anxiety, fear, and worry are not permitted inside my children.  Under no circumstances will I allow these soul-robbing vices.  Worry, fear, and anxiety are mine to keep.  You cannot have them.  You must pray if you are tempted by these evils.

 I’ll tell you what.  Every time you start to feel anxious, worried, afraid, or angry about some injustice, I want you to tell me about how thankful you are for the things I’ve blessed you so abundantly with.  I need you to not forget where you came from.  I want you to remember who you would be right now without me.  Am I faithful, Lori?  Am I?  I will give you peace.  I will protect your heart.  I will protect your mind.  Nothing you can gain in the world will do that for you.  Don’t forget who it is that’s talking to you.  I AM.

Before I go, I have one last instruction.  I want you to think about only good things.  I don’t want to see the evil done to you played out over and over in your mind today.  I want you to think about me.  I want you to think about how much I love you.  I want you to remember what I did for you; what I do for you every single day.  Look at your blessings.  Look at my provision.  Consider my sacrifice.  Believe me.  I am good.  You are mine.  There is no time to fret.  We have too much to do, Lori!  Look around!  Imitate the righteous.  Do whatever I say.  There is little time left.  Just listen.  Obey me.  I am holding out my hand.  I am holding out my peace.  I have promised to be with you and I cannot lie.

I am faithful.  Do not worry.  Trust me.

 ~ I AM

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T62P0h6kh5A

Little Sister

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My daddy had three brothers and one sister.  He died first (2004) and all have since followed save one brother.  His last living brother called last night and told me their sister had died.

I only met daddy’s sister a couple times. Once, when I was a little girl.  It was when Cabbage Patch Kid dolls were all the rave.  I did not have one at the time.  She took me downstairs in her home and there, unopened, were more Cabbage Patch Kid dolls than I’d ever seen all together in one place at one time.  She told me to pick one and she gave it to me.  She also took me to the toy store and told me to pick any toy I wanted.  It was not like today where children do this sort of thing on a daily basis.  This may have been the one single solitary time I have ever been given that kind of offer before or since.  (I chose a Rainbow Brite Sprite stuffed doll for all you 80’s kids out there.)

The other time I met her was about fifteen years later at my wedding.  Again, she gave me a beautiful and generous gift (pictured above).

Aside from those two experiences, I did not know Aunt Jackie, aka “Boo.”  Still, she was Daddy’s sister and I thought the world should at least know of her what I do:  she gave generous gifts to those she loved.

As Christians, we have many brothers and sisters whose cultural and regional proximity,or lack thereof, disallows our close fellowship.  Nevertheless, they are our family.  We grieve when we hear of their grieving,  We feel when we hear of their pain.  They are our people.  The bond which unites us is stronger than the circumstances which separate us.

The twenty-one Egyptian Christian men who recently died mercilessly at the hands of the Enemy were my brothers.  I did not know them.  Still, they were my brothers.  I cannot help but to grieve over them; to grieve for their families; to pray for repentance and forgiveness on the part of their evil oppressors; to plead for justice to come for their great sacrifice.  Their very lives were offered for our Savior.  I must honor my brothers for their brazen courage and remind the world of the great and generous gift they have given.  In the words of Matthew Henry, “Brotherly love must always go along with brotherly relation.”

The kind of man who gives his life for Jesus Christ is the kind of man for whom Jesus Christ gave his life – once enemies turned all-in Christ followers.  Christians are only ever all-in Christ, lest they are not Christians at all.

But what kind of Christian am I?  Do I follow a different Christ which is no Christ at all?  What kind of Christ do we American Christians follow if we cannot even step out of our way far enough to help the neighbors in our own church?  Community?  Workplace?  “Comfortable Christians” is what we’ve become here in the promise land.  Is that the kind of Christians these men were?  Not hardly.

We sang a song at church.  The lyrics stated, “I have nothing without you (Jesus.)”  It made me think of all the things I’d still have without Jesus.  I wondered if it were really true of me.  Is he all?  Is he absolutely everything?  Is he more than my house, my car, my clothing, my husband, and my children?  Is he all?

He was to my brothers.  God help little sister follow suit.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mLNL49TFC_8

kisses

Love is a belligerent emotion.  It does whatsoever it pleases and makes no apologies for its intrusion.  Love ravages its host like a storm and it stays for the duration of life.  Never does love lie dormant.  Never is it quiet.  Always, love makes its presence known.

Love never leaves the heart of its finder and it never, never fails.

For many, these truths are more than enough reason to run from the realness – the recklessness – required for the survival of unmitigated love.  How much easier it is to settle for lust; for fleeting, repeated infatuation; for self-absorbed alone-ness; for something – anything – else.  For that which merely, cheaply, imitates the violence and fury of the giving and taking of unashamed love.  Yes, love is only for the brave and wild at heart.

Surely it is true enough that sacrificial love is risky.  Even more dangerous is to believe that someone else on this earth is loving you back that way.  To know I am deeply loved is quite terrifying at times.  It is to allow another to see the deepest, most vulnerable parts and not run knowing they’ve seen; to trust them with those parts and to know that they love you in spite of it.

Yes.  Love is superior.  It is the prize, the reward, the red rose of all that is good in the world.  Still, love does as it pleases.  Love chooses and then it encroaches.  It occupies.  It resides.  It lives eternally.

While it is certainly not something we happen upon, true, deep, abiding love is something that happens to us.  Love chooses whom it will and we choose to will it welcome.  We do not muster effort to love or be loved.  No.  Love is certainly a gift – perhaps the greatest of all gifts given from above.

If I had to describe love to one who did not know it, could I call it glory?  Truth?  Zeal?  Joy?  Brilliance?   Excitement?  Passion?  Beauty?  Doubtless there are not adjectives enough in the world to rightly depict such a mysterious treasure.

Most of us live and die holding only a very few people in our hands – only a very few with whom we share the gift of true love.  Perhaps it is because love itself is so big and we are so very small.

No matter.  Love found me early.  I married the man love chose at 20.  The beginning of the matter had no less love than the present, 15 years later, yet it has changed.  Like a metamorphosis, new love morphed into redeemed, reconciled, renewed love is very much similar to the start, yet very much different at the same time.  Dare I say, the end of the matter is far better than the beginning.  After years of failing and forgiving, forging and finding, we now know one another more than we know anyone or anything else.  This portion is the kind of love young people dream about when they imagine the bright future spread wide ahead of them.  This portion is what we know when we’ve known Christ as well.  It is, and always has been, about the forging and finding; the failing and forgiving.  These, the very elements that compose the longevity of a condition that is, by virtue of its very nature, long suffering.

Maybe the many who fear the risk and rogue nature of love do not, nor cannot even know what they are missing.  I don’t know, really.  But I do know this: true love is worth any pain, any wait, any obstacle, and all personal costs.  Will it welcome if by God’s greatest grace it comes down to you.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nh-BAGYZVDk

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