Changed?

I waited until later to publish this one…on purpose. I knew, you see, that yesterday’s news would be today’s as well. I also knew that so much would be said yesterday (and probably for a good while to come!) that my words might get lost in the clamor. I’m OK with that. What I’ve got to say won’t change a lot of people’s minds, but maybe–just maybe–it might help someone else out there calm down and focus on something other than the hoopla in the news. Everywhere I’ve turned today, there have been rainbows and recriminations. Even as I type, there’s a rainbow at the top of my screen…and it wasn’t there yesterday. I suspect it will still be there tomorrow. Some things are going to be different now. Some things won’t change at all. I plan to be one of those “things” that don’t change. As far as I can tell, my mission is still the same one that its always been. God said I was supposed to love people like He loves people. He didn’t say that I’d always understand them, approve of their actions, agree with them, or even always like them. He just said I was supposed to love them. So, in case you were wondering, the answer to the unspoken question is a resounding “No.” I am not upset by the conclusions reached and published by five people whose job it is to interpret the laws instead of making them. I wasn’t wondering what they thought yesterday, so their opinions don’t hold that much appeal for me or change my thought process today. I don’t agree with those five people, but I am still called to love them and I plan to do so. And what about those people who are so excited and happy about this ruling? Well, the answer to that question is a “yes.” I have friends and family who see today’s news as a victory. I haven’t changed my mind about them, either. So, yes, I loved them before I heard the news and I see no reason to change that now, either. How can that be? Well, I’m realistic enough to know that I don’t have to believe someone is right before I choose to love them. Realistic? Yes. That word is appropriate because I don’t know of a single person on the planet that I’ve agreed with 100% of the time. In fact, if I was waiting until I found someone I agreed with on every single thing, then I wouldn’t even be able to love myself! (To understand that last sentence you need only remember the last time you said you were “on a diet”, but decided to have that big ole brownie anyway.) Loving someone like Jesus loves them means I am called to love regardless of their choices or opinions…and it means I will still be speaking His truth to them every time they’ll let me. You see, I’m a firm believer in telling the truth. I’m a believer in Jesus Christ, therefore I am called to tell the truth. What concerns me, however, is the number of people who aren’t speaking His truth in love…and we are called to do that, as well. It matters, people. It matters a lot, so I don’t plan to do that differently, either. The main thing you need to know about me is that I won’t be different today and I won’t be different the day after or the day after that…because I’ve already been changed. I’ve already made the decision that God knows best and that Jesus came to make a way so I could spend eternity with Him and I already know that He wants me to tell others how they can be changed, too, so here it is: God loves YOU! He sent His Son Jesus to die for you and He’s not waiting on you to get cleaned up or change on your own before you get to know Him. He loves you just like you are today AND He loves you enough to know what needs to change about you…whether it’s something that you’ve made public or not. He’s not worried that the task will be too difficult for Him. He’s also not concerned about whether His Word (the Bible) will suddenly become popular with the people on the Supreme Court or with the ones on the Main Streets all across the world or even with those who might sit in pews with all kinds of sin in their hearts this weekend. The Unchangeable One came to change us into the likeness of His Son (Romans 8:29)…no matter where we live or where we stand on this issue or any other. He came to make us righteous and when we become righteous because of His sacrifice (2 Corinthians 5:21), that’s when we’ll be able to love like He loves…and that will be what changes the world.

Do you know?

Hello, there! I know, I know…I’ve missed you, too! (all seven and a half of you who’ve been faithful to keep checking back here. ha!) I’ve been keeping pretty busy around here and, as I wrote before, God’s just had me being quiet even in all of the busy. Given all of the chaotic news in the world lately, a little quiet has seemed even more necessary than normal. I’ve been edging from my regular introversion toward full-on hermit…with occasional forays into the world of hysterical laughter with wonderful friends.

Along with cleaning out cabinets and closets, ignoring the growing weed collection in my flower beds as I’m roaming out in the yard, recovering chairs for the back porch and taking as much time as I can with my husband, I’ve also been pretty much camped out in Psalm 91…for WEEKS now. There’s still too much learning/brain and spirit marinating going on about that for me to even start sharing right now, but I’ve also had THIS keep popping up here lately and I do feel like I need to share it.

cropped-heartFor this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”  Ephesians 3:14-19 (NIV)

Did you see it? It’s what we ALL need right now:  “I pray that YOU (emphasis mine, but do you see that this is personal?)…grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”

Could there be anything bigger than that? Is there anything any of us need more today? Do you know that for yourself? And if not, can you just take a second and tell God that you’d really like Him to show you that? He really will do that for you, you know. And if you’re already learning this–because the vastness of this blessing is so great that I wonder if we can ever stop learning it?!–isn’t there someone you know who needs to start knowing it, too?

I get that we can’t hide from the world and still be effective in reaching those who really need to hear this, but I sometimes wonder if we don’t stay silent because we’re underwhelmed with our own resources. Here’s a little hint for all of us:  When we just start loving people like HE loves them, then we’re not dependent on our own resources…we’ll be walking out the wonder of God’s resources!

Do you know? and Do you know someone else who needs to hear this, too?

Grace and Peace!

Newsworthy?

Well. This has been quite the week for news, hasn’t it? More than that, it’s been quite the week for anger and vitriol and finger-pointing (from every side) about what is right and what is wrong–especially if your last name is Jenner. Interestingly enough, it is just barely mid-week and the main story in the news…isn’t really the main story…for any of us.

Somehow, in the midst of all of the goings-on, I think we’ve managed to miss a few things.

Here’s the real news:

  • There’s actually something wrong with all of us. What’s wrong with us is that we’re all flawed and we’re all sinful…all of us.
  • NONE of us have gotten it every bit right so far…and we never will as long as we’re still on this planet.
  • Perhaps the saddest news of all is when someone (anyone!) is unaware of who they are created to be…in Christ.
  • When someone doesn’t have that knowledge, it is absolutely impossible for their lives to look like they have that knowledge.
  • LOVE does not equal APPROVAL of every action or attitude. It isn’t even acceptance of every action or attitude. Love is a lot tougher than that…and a lot more resilient than we ever give it credit for being.
  • If I focus on the things that still need to  be fixed in ME, I won’t have time to finger-point…at anyone.

Here’s the better news:

  • God still loves us!
  • God didn’t wait for us to get it all together and act like we should before He decided to love us…or show us how MUCH He loves us!
  • There’s still time to act like we know and believe that.

SONY DSCHow will you LOVE today? How will you LIVE HIM today? How will you entice the world to want to know our God today? (Hint: They ARE all the same thing!)

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”  John 3:16-17

Grace & Peace!

It’s all in the doing…

I’m not sure if this is actually a blog post or a personal memo. Either way, I can’t get it off my brain, so here it goes.

My pastor preached on forgiveness this past Sunday. He used Matthew 5:21-26 as his primary text and did his usual phenomenal job of teaching us how to appreciate the way the words were deliberately chosen, as well as bringing the Word to life and making them practical. I can appreciate all of that. I love the way words are crafted, too…and I thought he brought out some really great points.

He talked to us about Romans 12:12 tells us to “be transformed” and then began the process of showing us how the rest of the Word makes that both possible and practical. Pastor Chris reminded us that we’re not to stop at the standards set by the world, or even by those set by historical religious teachers…we’re supposed to meet God’s standard.

In case you don’t remember just off the top of your head or haven’t reached for your Bible yet, Matthew 5:21-26 deals with anger…and forgiveness.

I thought Pastor Chris did a great job. I loved the sermon…and then…

I had to apply it this week.

Don’t ever think that God doesn’t have a sense of humor…or timing…cropped-heart

Now, it’s up to me to get busy with the doing.

“Forgiven people forgive.” That’s what we were taught on Sunday. That’s where I’m walking this week.

How are YOU doing the Word this week?

Grace & Peace!

Light afflictions?

Light afflictions…

“For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory”   2 Corinthians 4:17

I’ve been thinking a lot about heaven these past couple of weeks. I’d love to say that’s because I’m so lofty-minded, but the real reason is because I keep getting news about people I know who have just recently gone there.

That’s right. This is about that…and a few other things. I’m fine. We’re well and hoping to continue that way, but a lot of people I love are really hurting right now. Within the past two weeks I’ve learned that a friend lost her husband, one lost her mother, another lost her father, one lost a son and, just this past Sunday, a family member lost a son…all that in addition to the realization that I may have actually lost count of the recent surgeries and the difficult diagnoses that are out there, too.

It would be easy to hear all this hard news and become discouraged and angry and bitter, but it wouldn’t change a thing. In fact, it would just slow down the process of learning what God has to say about all these recent challenges. I lay in bed the other night just thinking, “Heaven must be incredible! These things are hard, God, and if these are some of the “light afflictions” and the joy really is that great… no wonder John didn’t have the vocabulary to tell us all about heaven in words that we could all easily understand at will. Dear God, help us focus on THAT.”

I mean, think about it! The writer of Hebrews tells us that Jesus went through all of that agony, took on all the sins of the world, endured the turning away of His Father (!), was despised and rejected by men (then AND now!)—all of that!– “for the joy that was set before Him.” He did all of that just to make sure He could take us with Him and keep us with Him forever because the joy that is coming is SO MUCH BIGGER than our deepest pain in this world. Wow.

And yet we waffle in our belief. We lose sight of the goal and choose to be less some days. We forget that our inconsistencies can keep others from seeing His light…and in doing so, we make it easier for the world to deny Him even now.

One thing is certain in this life. Hard things will happen, but wait! There’s something else that is just as certain:  God will be there with us in the midst of it…and He wants, more than anything, to have us all with Him forever. There is promise in that. There is hope in that. There is healing in that. I need all of that and so do you!

So here’s the next step today:  we get to choose. We get to choose what and WHO we believe, and we get to choose how we’ll live, and we get to choose how we’ll share HIM—how we’ll LIVE HIM—before the world who is ALSO dealing with these hard things…without Him.

Here’s what I know: I can’t fix the hurts here or wave away the hard news.  What I can tell you is my deliberately chosen response to these things:

  1. Heaven is gathering a new fascination for me simply because my Jesus is there and He’s got a great and growing collection of people I love who have already found themselves there, too.
  2. I’ve got a life to live here that makes other people want to go along with me as I travel there.
  3. Until that happens, I’ll be…

 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”  Hebrews 12:2

Want to go with me?

Grace & Peace!

cropped-heart

Identity Secure?

I found out this week that someone was trying to use my name…and that they were also trying to use my debit card number…and it wasn’t me. I wasn’t alarmed when my card was declined while trying to buy fruit at the Kroger store, but I did follow up on the matter and I’m really glad I did.

My first call was to my banker, who heard my voice and called me by my first name. It was exactly what I expected of her because we’ve known one another for years. We’ve talked many times–in and out of her office. We’ve worshiped together, exchanged stories about God’s goodness, and prayed together about matters of concern to each of us. She knows me by more than just my name or the string of numbers which represent me on her computer screen. She immediately took safety precautions and started the necessary procedures to take care of the matter for me. Her response reminded me of why I chose to do business there in the first place and reinforced that decision in a major way.

“Annoyed” doesn’t even begin to touch how I feel about some nefarious person trying to steal from me and others using my card number, but the fact is that sometimes that kind of thing happens in our electronic society where we’re known by numbers instead of by face. It means we must be on our guard–and it makes a strong argument for using cash!

As I monitored my accounts in the early morning hours, the following thought occurred to me:  I’m so glad that can’t happen in Christ!

My true identity is not one marked by a specific sequence of numbers and it can never be stolen…electronically or otherwise. My true identity as a child of God is safe because I am HIS! I am safe and secure in Him. I am loved by Him. He knows my voice and, even better, He knows my heart. I am deeply and personally known by Him and He is always watching over me.

I am comforted by that. You can be, too. Do you have that kind of security?

“See, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; Your walls are continually before Me.” Isaiah 49:16 

“But if anyone loves God, this one is known by Him.” I Corinthians 8:3 

cropped-heart“O Lord, You have searched me and known me.
You know my sitting down and my rising up;
You understand my thought afar off.
You comprehend my path and my lying down,
And are acquainted with all my ways.
For there is not a word on my tongue,
But behold, O Lord, You know it altogether.
You have hedged me behind and before,
And laid Your hand upon me.”   Psalm 139: 1-5

Grace & Peace!

Listening

Sometimes I want to sit in front of this computer and write long, amazing posts full of all the things God keeps showing me. I mean, I REALLY want to do that like you just wouldn’t believe…and He just won’t let me. I’m going through something like that right now and thought I’d let you know why it’s been a bit quiet here lately.

  • God’s been saying plenty. Trust me on this. Apparently, however, now is not the time to share those things.
  • Maybe it’s because you’ve got to really “GET” the lesson and have it worked down into your life before you’re really able to share or teach it properly. And He’s giving me a lot to take in right now.
  • Maybe it’s because He’s apparently got a lot to say through the people around me and doesn’t need my voice to get in the way of theirs.
  • Maybe He’s just teaching me how to listen when He says, “No.” to something that I want/crave/view as “mine”…and learn to respond to the “No.” in ways that still honor Him.
  • Maybe…who knows?

Whatever the reason for the time-out, know this: God is good. Amazingly good. He is loving and caring and personal and He sees you right where you are and He knows what you NEED even when it isn’t what you want and He still has a plan that is for your good.

Are you listening? Even if He says “No.” to you, too?

Autumn Lavender Bloom