Tuesday, October 30, 2012

At School Forever

2 Corinthians 3:18 And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

The benefit of knowing you're in a 'learning environment.'

When we're in school, we just know we're not going to 'get it' all at once, or after the first time, there will be labs, worksheets, pop quizzes, exams.  None of which are particularly fun, probably a little stressful.
I wonder how I'll do? Do I know the  material well enough or are we back at it again until I get it?  

And as an adult learner who has probably chosen to put themselves in that environment by registering for the class and paying the fee, you are making the choice to alter your schedule to accommodate classes or labs, you're choosing to do the homework even if it means staying up late or getting up ridiculously early, you're choosing to submit reports and take exams.  You're choosing because the benefits of learning the material and incorporating it in our lives is worth the price.  You know that going in on the front end. 

How much better would the experience of our Christian life be if we understood we were in a learning environment?  
We're being transformed into the image of Christ. 
We ask Jesus into our hearts, to be our Lord and Savior, rescue us from our sins and bring us into a great life relationship with Him until we go to heaven to be with Him for eternity. 
We are, in fact, asking for a learning curve. 
Generally speaking, we don't know what scripture says much less how to put it into practice. We need the embrace of those around us to mentor us, helping to guide in understanding the amazing things we can learn AND put into practice now.  
Fascinatingly, as adults, it's not uncommon to come at this new life of faith with an antagonistic attitude to those around us who would love to help us in our journey of discovery.  It hits a pride nerve, as if we were lesser somehow for needing to learn new things. 
Is the doctor the bad guy because he diagnoses an issue?  Nope.  Neither is your pastor or Sunday School teacher. :-) They're just seeing a place to grow to greater freedom.  
How awful would the doctor be if he knew there was illness there but didn't care enough about you to say something that treatment might be started. 
You're not lesser, or dumb, or a second-class Christian citizen, you're just newer to the journey.  It doesn't matter how old you are in years.  New is GREAT, whoohooo for new.  There's no badness in that.  It just means there's stuff to explore as God is very intent about His job of transforming us into His likeness.  
There will be homework. :-) There will be labs.  He LOVES on the job training, I've discovered. 
We'll go into situations not knowing all we need to, which is precisely why He allows us the privilege of being in that circumstance--that we can first learn what we don't know, then set about embracing His enablement through the Holy Spirit, that we might gain that knowledge to put into practice to love His people better. Knowing this is what's happening can bring a ton of comfort.  
So take the Sunday School classes that are offered, be in a weekly bible study, get involved in the lives of people around you and just know you're learning and it's ok.  We're all learning.  Your learning curve is a beautiful thing to God.  You're going to do some things beautifully and be surprised how naturally some things come.  
You're going to hose up a ton of stuff, say things you shouldn't, be in the wrong place at the wrong time and learn.  Make use of the training.  Be of good cheer!  God loves you just the way you are.  He also loves you too much to just leave you there.  You will become more kind, more loving, more patient, more forgiving, because He is intent to work those character qualities in you if you just participate WITH Him instead of fighting AGAINST the learning. It is worth all the effort you put into it because your life is transformed and the lives of the people around you are impacted by the transformation. 

So Father, today, please help us to see your kind hand of training in the situations in our lives, bless us with your power to step into the moment knowing you're with us and help us to learn all that you would have us learn, for your glory.  May your kingdom grow, more people become free by our willing and humble hands and hearts.  

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Loving the Unlovely

I was reeling.
I remember it like yesterday.
Only a week had passed since that early morning I was in the bed with my mom, holding her as she took her last breath.  The tip of her nose turned white...
then the white line moved down her nose to encompass her whole face.
And somewhere I heard wailing.
Primal wailing.
Then I realized it was me.

And there I was a week later, surrounded by people celebrating someone's momentous life occasion.
Feeling disoriented by the joy around me.
I quietly stole off to the bedroom, crumpled to the floor and cried out to God.
'how dare you.
how dare you ask me to love these people when I'm hurting so badly.
You're asking too much.
I have nothing left.
I hurt.
I hurt so bad I don't know how to breathe.
I have nothing.
except pain.
that these folks are celebrating offends me.
it hurts, God it just hurts. '

And in the quiet of my heart I heard, 'loving the unlovely doesn't mean just loving people who stink.'
In just that moment understanding came.
We will always be called to love those that offend us.
It could be smell, sheesh, that's the easy one, right?
It could be anything that rubs us the wrong way....something that gets up our nose.
How they laugh too loudly, or dress to weirdly or maybe it's all the tattoos or piercings.
Maybe they talk all the time or never at all, so you never know what they're thinking.
Or maybe they process life negatively.  You know, those folks that don't have much positive to say.
The Anti-Pollyanna, if you will.

I was surrounded by people who were fabulous people, really.  And the celebration was important to celebrate.
What I learned that day was to never draw the line on what I won't love because Jesus never does.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10
And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.  Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

Filled, surrounded by His peace, I wiped my face, blew my nose and went on to join the party.
Who are you missing out on loving today because they're not packaged as would make you comfortable?
If we are not well content with our weakness, how will we ever experience the power of Christ dwelling in us?
Make the choice to set that aside and just jump in to the loving and see what a beautiful thing God will do.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

I snub thee.....

Have you ever been on a team or in a group where you didn't enjoy everyone there?
haha, right?!
Everyone over 12 has been in that situation.
Back when we were kids, someone would just come out and say, "I don't like you!"
and get fussed at by the nearest grownup.....something about that not being kind.
But it would be out in the open and we could muster up the bravery to ask, 'what'd I ever do to you? I want you to be my friend. If I hurt your feelings, I'll say I"m sorry.'

So we learn to be more indirect about telling people we don't like them.
And of course, in church culture, it's religiously incorrect to not like someone.
Jesus loved everyone and so should you.
(insert pressure to conform here.)
People learn the art of the snub.
Not looking directly at you when you're speaking ....
or not acknowledging you when you have said something as if your voice wasn't heard or worthy to comment on.
Or watching someone go down a different hallway when they see you coming.
that terrifying moment when your eyes meet and they quickly avert their gaze.
Or when you comment on Facebook and they 'like' everyone else's comment but yours as if their navigations weren't visible to all.
and we smile with our mouth but our eyes belie the truth--I snub thee, in Jesus name.
We're left with the sense that our very being holds no value.
But that can't be right we tell ourselves because the bible says we're of incredible value to Him.
The bible tells us we are to love everyone but how do we handle loving someone when we either don't like them or don't feel liked by them?
Questions to wrestle with until He returns.
And then the question will probably feel pretty dumb in light of His glory.
There is something about the simple acknowledgement of 'I see you.' that communicates incredible value and worth to someone.

Father, forgive me, for your word tells me that love never fails.
Help me to be generous as You are generous with acknowledging all the others that You love so desperately.
Help me extend love and grace to others who are irritated by my presence.
Give me wisdom to know if this is a place you're looking to modify in my life or if the issue is theirs so it doesn't lodge in my heart and become a wound.
Help me to be brave to extend welcome to others and to just walk encompassed by your welcome regardless of how others are choosing to respond to me.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Gimme my crutch...

 Ventura said, "Organized religion is a sham and a crutch for weak-minded people......

Years ago, Jesse Ventura, once the governor of the state of Minnesota was speaking about religion and began with the above statement.  The remainder of the remarks are here....http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesse_Ventura#Comments_on_religion

You'll have to read the whole of his comments to get his gist but how he began his statement struck a resounding chord for me.
a crutch for weak-minded people....
Yes, Jesse, that part I agree with.
Organized religion has it's place but that's a topic for another discussion.

Almost 22 years ago, I recognized my weakness and asked Jesus to rescue me.
Of all the countless decisions I've ever made, I've not once regretted that one.
What I've found is that we are all weak-minded people in some fashion or another.
Just another evidence of our humanity not our determination.
We prove Romans right multiple times a day.

Romans 7:21 So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!

The tragedy for me is that so many others don't recognize they need His strength.

I need you.
Second by second, day by day, left to myself, I'll mess up everything and can never earn a place in your favor.
Thank you for your big obedient heart for giving up so much for me and blessing me with an amazing relationship with you today.
You bring me hope and peace and I'll spend my life gladly serving you.
Help my friends, my loved ones, the acquaintance I've yet to meet, recognize you today.
Reveal yourself uniquely to each one, so we're all left with the certainty we've met the One True Holy God.
Ruin us for an ordinary life.
In our weakness, we look to you, our Strength.

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Antidote to Insecurity

One Thing Remains by Jesus Culture
Higher than the mountains that I face, Stronger than the power of the grave.
Constant through the trial and the change.... One thing remains, One thing remains

Your love never fails, it never gives up, it never runs out on me (X3)

On and on and on and on it goes, It overwhelms and satisfies my soul
And I never ever have to be afraid... One thing remains

In death and in life I'm confident and covered by the power of your great love
My debt is paid there's nothing that can separate my heart from your great love

Change is certainly something we can trust.
The news that a loved one is struggling with a terminal illness....
Financially uncertain times...
Jobs come and then they go....
Friends & lovers decide its not worth the struggle and leave....
Changing times, changing seasons.
In fairness, not all change is bad.
Babies come, ah. Who doesn't love that?!
If only kittens and puppies would stay kittens and puppies.
The blush of new love.

When change comes in the form of news that shakes our sense of stability, our sense of security, what gives you peace?
In the car, factoring in new news, I found myself praying in the Spirit, thanking Him that He is my Prince of Peace.  The strong tower I run to.
Running to you, God, is my self comforting behavior. :-)
Thank you that Your love never fails, it never gives up and it never runs out on me.
On and on and on and on it goes, it overwhelms and satisfies my soul
And I never ever have to be afraid.

You have this.  You see, You understand, You have a good plan and the story isn't done.
Your great goodness and kindness isn't defined by these little limited circumstances.
Thank you that your peace passes understanding.

You truly do inhabit the praises of Your people.

Gotta get this album...

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Dual Citizenship

So I sought for a man among them who would make a wall, and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found noone.  Ezekiel 22:30

You also be patient.  Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.  James 5:8

Presidential debates = disappointment

This morning I find myself reminded in my quiet time that I am a dual citizen.  Not in the formal sense but a very proud citizen of the United States of America and a citizen of the kingdom of God.
Both with privileges and responsibilities.

I watch the debates because I feel it's my duty not because I like it.
I will vote because that's a part of my responsibility, regardless of how enamored or not I am about the choices.
Not voting is abdicating.
And living beneath the grand price those who came before me paid so dearly for me to have.
I consider the passivity that does not participate an active dishonoring of the gift we have been given.

But I'm working through a sense of sadness.
This is not my home.
I long for the day Jesus comes back and all will see that He, by His grace, His power and His price, deserves the rule to which He was called.

Til then, Lord, I look to do my part and I look to the day when You do what only You can do.
In the meantime, fill me with your love for humanity, one person at a time.