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Archive for February, 2016

An Outtake

“Sometimes when I try to read the Bible I feel like throwing my hands up and quitting because I don’t understand,” says my fellow ladies Bible study attendee.

“Sometimes that’s how I feel because I do understand!” I reply.

Here’s an outtake from Loriland on why this is true:

There are times I see the truth and it is so hard.  In the Bible I see the best men getting the worst lots…on earth.  I see God silent as they continuously cry out to him for help and relief.  I see other men and women doing this life so much better for Christ than I ever will and I loathe myself for the perpetual indwelling sin I should have put off long ago.  I see the altogether sovereign will of my Father doing whatsoever he wishes with each and every created being he has ever made and I am humbled by his absolute authority to do just that.  I remind myself that he is God and I am not and I get mad because I want control.  Then I grovel in self loathing some more for having such thoughts.  I see no where to go but back to him when I cannot understand and do not like his means and methods.  I feel inadequate, convicted, small, and helpless.  I am.  I realize that I always have been and always will be.  I know what he wants.  My obedience – even more, my trust. The one cannot come without the other.

Could I really have been studying this same old book for the better part of the past twenty years and still be stalled by the truths that trump all of my for what’s and faithless excuses?  I consider what spiritual age I could possibly be. Two?  Maybe three?  Right.  That’s why I want to quit sometimes when I understand the Bible.  But I don’t.  And I won’t.  Because he won’t let me.  Thank God that his ways are not my ways.

 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. ~1 Corinithians 15:10

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lives

Lives matter.  Isn’t that what all the hullabaloo is about these days?  Really?  In the year 2016 humans are still having to be told that life matters.  Is the agenda simply concerned with schooling us on which lives really matter most?  Or are the lives that everyone that is shouting about lives that are largely devalued by the majority?  And why does it seem like there is an elephant named stereotyping standing in every room full of fighters?

It started with “black lives matter.”  No doubt they certainly do.  Some take the statement of this obvious truth to imply that the rest of lives – those that belong to we who are not black – matter less.  Hence, the hashtag “all lives matter.”  Or what about the people group indicted by the “black lives matter” community?  As Chick-fil-A contends, “police lives matter,” too.  It has become a war about which lives are paramount.  And where there’s a war, there are no winners.  There are only  bleeders.

All the buzz, forgive me, has me a bit confused.  It’s one of those things I begin to think about and then look up to see if anyone else’s face reads as puzzled as mine.  We’re bleeding out all over America because we have been asked to pick a corner and fight over a fundamental truth that should be quite obvious.  Life matters immensely.  .

Don’t get me wrong, the issues are real.  There are bad cops.  There are racist people.  There are works of evil all around us all day, every day.  If there is anything anyone can do to shed light on the abuses against innocent victims, I’m all for it.  But, America, let’s at least be ambitious enough to uncover what is at the bottom of our outrage.

All of these thoughts swirled though my subconscious last night at the theater as I watched the movie “Risen.”  It was a fictional story about a Roman soldier who was alive during the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.  In that time and place, perhaps the hashtag would have read “Jewish lives matter.”  Maybe it would have said “disciples lives matter” or “soldiers lives matter.”  I don’t know for sure but I do know one thing.  Then, as well as now, many people were wrongfully abused, injured, and murdered at the hands of the authorities of both church and state.

 Think about that for a moment.  Let it sink in.  Like the Bible says, there is nothing new under the sun.

But let’s get back to the movie.  Jesus shows up and he, claiming to be God, does not fight for the value of his own life to be recognized by those who hate him.  He does quite the opposite.  Instead, to those who love him, he teaches his example of self-abasement, humility, and how to consider others better than themselves.  To that end I ask, is that what we are doing, America?  Because it seems like there is a lot of finger pointing going on and none of it ever points inwardly.  We, who want justice, are just as responsible for valuing life as those we are shouting at.  And honestly, our own self is the only person we have the power to change.

As Christians, we should never minimize or ignore the suffering of others.  The truth is that every life was created by God and that is what makes every life intrinsically, immeasurably valuable.  That means nothing can make us more or less valuable.  Not our skin tone, our profession, or our age.  Neither our social status, salary, smarts, or even our sins.

The young black man who is shot by a middle aged white cop is certainly no less valuable than the young white cop who is shot by a middle aged black man.  We, as honest people, see the tragedy of both situations as equally horrific.

When our forefathers wrote that all men were created equal, I do not know what they originally meant.  I do know that the concept of human equality is borrowed capital from the Christian Bible.  What that means is that at the cross, the black man is equal with the white as is the woman with the man; the thief with the philanthropist; the adulterous with the virgin; the drunkard with the sober; the unborn baby with the ninety year-old.

Every life matters to the God who created them all.  He shows no partiality.  None.  If we follow him, every life must matter to us as well.  Anger does not win people and cause them to stop doing evil; believing evil; being evil.  Civil societal wars won’t save the lives being snuffed out daily.  Picking sides will only divide us further.  Instead, we must learn who we are.  We were made in God’s image and that is why we are all to be highly valued by one another.

Your addicted neighbor is valuable.  Pray for him.  The coworker who treats you poorly every day is valuable.  Show her love.  The waitress who got your order wrong is valuable.  Tip her well.  The man who spoke ill of you to everyone you know is valuable.  Forgive him.  The girl who always dresses inappropriately is valuable.  Teach her.  The wealthy man running for president who acts like an utter fool is valuable.  Do not hate him.  The mad black woman shouting about how valuable her life is is right.  Respect her.

It is easy to take up a cause and start shouting.  It is hard to live out a life of love toward fellow sinners day in and day out.  Nevertheless, that is what we must do.  That is the solution.  Love saves lives one at a time.  That is our job.  We must stop letting our differences divide us and pray.  Stop carrying torches and shouting about which lives you prefer and prefer them all in the sphere of your very own life.  Place value on those you least love for the sake of both solidarity and sanctification.  We are all yet students.

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A Higher Love

 

With down-turned lips and teary eyes my six year old climbs up next to me.

“What’s the matter, May?” I ask.

Her voice cracks as she blurts out once again, “I miss my night-night.”

Her words turn into soft sobs as she waits for mommy’s magic to somehow bring it back.

It has been about a month since Maylee’s beloved blankie was left behind and lost.  Couple that with being bumped out of being the official baby of the family just a month beforehand and you have a seriously insecure six year old.  Losing her security blanket immediately following her six and a half year reign in that position makes it all the more devastating.  My heart breaks for my big girl and I try my hand at consolation.

“I’m so sorry, May.  I know how you feel.  I lost a best friend once, too.  But you know what?  The pain you’re feeling proves how pretty you are inside.”

With great big eyes she waits in wonder for my explanation.  I go on to tell her she is a lot like me.

 “You love deeply.  You hold on long after you know you should let go.  Not many little girls keep their blankets so long, you know.  You are sensitive, sentimental, and sincere.  Your heart stands still and stays with that which makes you smile.  Those things make you extra sweet.  Sometimes being sincere and sentimental like us also makes you sad, though.

I know.  I know how it feels when you first lose that favorite friend.  It feels a lot like being forsaken.  It’s not just the loss and the loneliness.  It’s that no one and nothing else will do.  That’s love, May.  That’s how love feels.  You have a broken heart.  Love never ends.

True love makes us cry even when we laugh because all we can see is that lost friend laughing with us and how beautiful they were when they were there.  Laughter just reminds us that the one we laughed most with is gone and life won’t ever be the same without them.

You know what though, May?  There’s hope for us even though we lost our best friends.  There’s a higher love that hides our hurts inside of Himself.  He hears us and he heals us.  He doesn’t take away our memories or keep us from missing those lost, but he helps us hold onto the happiness we once had with them.  He holds us when we can’t help but keep hunting for that friend that’s forever flown far, far away.  He is Our Father, God.

Every time I miss my friend, I talk to Him.  So every time you miss your night-night, you should talk to him.  He has a higher love for us than the one we lost.  His love never leaves.  He promised.

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sonny

“What does fasting do?” my husband asks.

“It makes you hungry,” the ever so honest Sunday school-er replies.

“It makes you focus on God.”

Sometimes focusing on God means sacrificing.  Other times it means imbibing.  Extremists like me often have trouble recognizing that it is both/and not either/or.  Our problem presents when we begin to lean too far into only one direction.  We begin to forget that the other side of the coin is equally pleasing to God and good for our spiritual lives.

The one who finds faith in fasting must figure out how to find freedom in filling up.  The one who finds faith in filling up must figure out how to find freedom in fasting.

As I ran another very slow postpartum four miler I considered my position.  I am slower than I have ever been.  I weigh more than I ever have.  I have more responsibility and less time.  But I also have more love and less worry; better friends and less loneliness; more patience and less sadness.

It occurred to me that I am allowed to be happy with where I am right now — even though right now I am not nearly what I once was in some areas.  I do not have to always bully myself about what is not perfect about me.  I am allowed to be proud of who I am today completely apart from who I am striving to be tomorrow.

No, I did not wake up at my strict standard 5 a.m. for study and prayer.  I have not done so in too many days to count.  I ate a few cookies.  I ran slow.  I started school late.  I made peanut butter and jelly for lunch.  I wore sweats all day.  I didn’t finish my filing.  I did not fulfill my goals or check many boxes off my all important to do list.

Still, “Good job,” I thought.  I’m doing pretty good.

The thought so foreign to my ever antagonizing inner dialogue seemed strange.  I almost did not believe myself.  But, yes, it was true.  I actually meant it.  I genuinely felt accomplished and content despite what did not get done perfectly.  Could it be?  Have I grown or have I grown lazy?  Before the browbeating antagonist takes over once again, let me say with confidence I believe it is the former.

I got up.  I fed my baby from my own body at least twelve times today.  I spoke to God between shower and school time.  I exercised.  I shared stories, subtraction, and swimming with my children.  I said, “I love you,” and “I’m sorry.”  I looked in my newborn’s eyes and watched some of her very first smiles.  Five years ago this all felt far more like failing.  I am not failing.  I am focusing on God through my freedom saved up for a season such as this.

For the first time in my life I feel flexible rather than forced.  It is not that I don’t want to be better.  It is not that I don’t need to be better.  Always.  I will always be goal-oriented with a side of go-getting.  That’s just the girl God made me.  I don’t even think I can help it.  So, no, it’s  not a matter of lowering standards.  I have simply written myself a permission slip that says I will accept my own limitations and be kind to me as I work ever so slowly toward my ultimate goals.

Because wishing for a free moment to read my Bible is far better than reading it for an hour while wishing I didn’t have to.  A slow run is better than no run.  Better late than never.  Imperfections are part of being made perfect.

Sometimes focusing on God means sacrificing.  Other times it means imbibing.  Extremists like me have trouble recognizing that it is both/and not either/or.  So, from one faith finder to another, by all means, find God in fasting.  But find him also in filling up.  Figure out which season you are in and be free, fearless, and faithful.  Because both are pleasing to God as long as our focus is on finding him.

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