Offended much?

Last night was the third time in less than a week that God put this word in front of me, so I guess He’s trying to make a point. Who knows? Maybe He’s trying to make that point to YOU and I’m just the scribe here, but…no, it’s probably to me, too, so I guess we’d both better pay attention, right?

It came up during my Ladies Bible study discussion time. We’ve been studying Kelly Minter’s What Love Is (a study of 1, 2, and 3 John). Subject matter is pretty title-evident here, so I won’t go into that right now. Anyway! We had a discussion starter that asked, “How has the Holy Spirit rescued you by refusing to let you continue in a specific sin?” Well, it was supposed to be a discussion starter. In reality, it resulted in a lot of dropped heads and a palpable please-don’t-let-her-call-on-me vibe. It’s a tough question. Fortunately (or perhaps un-fortunately) I actually had an answer for that one myself. I shared the much-abbreviated version of the following situation with them and now, again, with you:

Many years ago, someone in my life decided it would be ok to make disparaging remarks about someone I love dearly…TO me. It didn’t go well. In fact, it pretty much ended the relationship’s previously sweet fellowship, but being the proper God-following Christian that I am, I decided that I would just forgive and forget…except that I didn’t. I couldn’t. Every time I thought of that person, I replayed the scene and then I’d tell myself that I’d forgiven and I just needed to move onward. One day I was sitting at a traffic light on my way to work when God spoke loudly within my spirit that I needed to call and apologize to them.

“Seriously, God?!”

“Yes. You’ve had a bad attitude toward them and you need to apologize to them for it.”

“But, I didn’t start this! I did nothing wrong! This is on them!”

“I know. Call and apologize. Now.”

I called. I apologized. They said, “Yes, I know. I was right.”

(And yes, it actually happened and, yes, I really did think my head might explode…just before God reminded me that this call wasn’t about THEM. It was about ME being obedient. I finished the call and was actually able to move on from the experience just carrying the love and the knowledge without carrying the grudge or the offended spirit toward them. If you don’t think that’s a God-thing, then we need to chat. Soon.)

I didn’t think much of it at the time, but looking back, that was incident #1:  my reminder of lessons learned…and still in need of practice. (One day I’ll be smarter and pick up on things sooner, right, God?)

Incident #2—I was getting ready for church Sunday morning and somehow my mind drifted into thinking about someone who seems to just have the gift for offending me. I mean, almost every time they speak. It’s been consistent enough that I’ve now started to dread even seeing them. Just avoid them, you say? Not possible. They’re part of my life…and I’ve got a sneaking suspicion that God did that on purpose. Anyway. I was wondering to myself how I should deal with the situation. Should I write a letter? Make another phone call—I mean I do remember how that turned out on the last one. (grin.) Should I go talk to them in person? Take a witness or go alone? What to say so that I could address the matter and not be offensive on my end of it all? I mean, it isn’t about spiritual matters that we differ, it isn’t about political issues, it’s just life issues/people skills. (yes, it was a fine way to prepare for worship, wasn’t it?!)

God let me put it aside throughout Sunday School and the phenomenal worship and praise time. Then he had my pastor start talking. He’s been teaching us about generosity throughout the month of February. It’s been great…and then, he seemed to veer off into a slight tangent about attitudes toward others and offended spirits… Oh, yes, he did. Actually, it is probably more accurate to say HE did. God used my pastor and the Word to step all over my toes and remind me that I’m called to be generous in many ways…including the way I deal with people who don’t believe, think, or do just like I do. Instead, I’m called to love even my offenders. (and ouch…again.)

Incident #3—I was on that amazing highway of intellectual exchange—Facebook—last night and saw that someone had posted the following: “Being offended doesn’t make you right.”

Never one to let ambiguity stand in my way, I simply commented back, “Neither does not being so.” At least that was my intention. Epic fail on my part: I left out the “not” portion of that statement. HA! Sometimes you just have to laugh at yourself and how God will allow you to take your own self down a notch or two.

While my addition to the conversation makes no sense in its published form, my intended response does. Being offended doesn’t make you right any more than not being offended makes you right.

Don’t misunderstand me. There ARE things that should offend us (I can make you a list, if you really can’t make your own.), BUT being offended by something doesn’t mean we’re allowed to behave in ways or have attitudes—that one was for me (Oh. You, too. And you…yes, I see all those hands going up.)—that still do not honor Christ. (Yes, that was a period, but perhaps it needs to be cohesively restated.) Being offended by something or someone doesn’t mean we’re allowed to behave in ways or have attitudes that do not honor CHRIST! (Bold face, italics, underlining and an exclamation point on purpose, people.)

Think about it:  We’re never going to be offended into believing the other person might be right…and that also means that we’re rarely likely to offend someone into a vibrant relationship with Christ. We’re called to be offended AND THEN LOVE THEM ANYWAY. No, I’m not kidding…and I get that straight from Scripture where we are instructed to become like Jesus. We are called to know Truth, LIVE the truth and speak it in love! We’re called to live HIM and that means that our standards must be inviolable (because they are HIS standards!) about those about things that are offensive AND about loving our offenders.

I need that to sink in deeeep, because one day that offender might be you…and one day it might be me. We’re all going to need this because Scripture doesn’t say this: “They’ll know you’re with Me by how easily you become offended and seek retribution and hold grudges and lock people out of your life because they don’t think/act/believe like you do.” Instead, it says this:

“By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:35

SONY DSC Grace & Peace!

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For those in the night watches…

I know what it’s like to count breaths. To stagger my own as thought it would somehow give that ability to the loved one who is struggling. To pray for release and yet still hope for more. To be grateful when the next one arrives and then realize it was the last.

One of my favorite things to have happen is to wake up in the night and find myself singing praise songs. Just as precious, however, are those times when I move to wakefulness and find myself already in prayer. That’s the way I’ve greeted the past two days: praying for those I love.

In the early morning hours I changed positions and in that brief movement caught just that breath of prayer for friends who have lost, for those who are still in the process of losing…and for the families of 21 Coptic brothers in Christ whose lives I didn’t even know existed until just a few days ago. As I moved into conscious prayer, I asked for comfort and strength for those under the heavy weight of loss and those who still struggle for their next breath even now. I reminded God of what He already knows:  Night watches are the hardest and those who must endure them require an extra portion of grace to do so.

Respirations grow longer and often more labored. Connections with the day and its activity-laden bustle are further from our minds and so the focus can only shift to the counting of breaths and the struggle for both parties to be there for the next one. The need for rest is real, but often ignored because we place a higher value on being present to hold the vigil, the hand, the heart…and count the breaths.

Whether or not your night watch right now is real or symbolic, physical or spiritual, please know this: you are not alone. the same God who breathed life into Adam is with you now. He who created the day also created the night…and the day that will eventually follow. He knows all about pain and loss and He can show you how to breathe through it. Yes, these times will change us.

No, they will not change Him.

All the things we are most grateful for in the day are still true in the night, so grab the deepest breath you can and lean hard into Him. Be assured that the One who set limits on the brightest day also set limits on the darkest night. It may not be tomorrow, but joy does come in the morning.

Praying for strength, comfort, peace and those in the night watches of life…as we wait for morning together.

SONY DSC

 

 

Choosing the right lane…

I am most definitely an introvert, but I’m not sure I really drive like one. I am more…shall we say…pro-active on the road…than a lot of people. My husband and I have switched up driving chores since day one of our marriage. He has no problem putting me behind the wheel. It means he can take a nap. It also means that when he wakes up, he’s often been surprised to find out how far we’ve traveled during his beauty sleep.

I think I’m a pretty good driver. I’m generally polite and I follow most of the rules…most of the time. See? Even here I have to qualify my statements. Justification. That’s never a good sign, right? To be fair, I’ve only ever received one ticket for speeding. It was in 1989. A friend and I were headed back to GA after a wedding and we were having an absolutely marvelous time laughing and carrying on about our weekend and just generally catching up on each other when we passed a policeman headed in the opposite direction. It was a divided highway entering a small Alabama town with a well-known speed trap. Blue lights flashed as he headed to find a place to turn around. I just pulled over. My friend Betty looked totally puzzled and asked me how I knew that was for us…after all, there were several other cars in the area when it happened. My answer was simple: “Betty, we’ve passed every single thing we’ve seen since we left this morning. It couldn’t help being for me.”

Moments later, the largest biceps I had ever seen before—or since!–appeared in my window. They were attached to an extremely nice policeman who looked at the two of us, took in my MS drivers license and my AL tag and the fact that I now had a Georgia address–and that I was going a little over 80 mph as I entered his 55 mph speed area (I hadn’t even made it to the slow-down area!)—and simply shook his head and gave me a lecture about how he was concerned that we would become a holiday statistic if I continued along at my current pace. He said his name was Sam Washington. I won’t ever forget him. He wrote me a citation with a pretty reasonable fine all things considered and extended grace as he sent us on our way instead of putting me under the jail…where I probably wouldn’t have learned a thing given my hardheadedness at the time.

That grace, though, made a difference. I recognized right off that he didn’t have to do things the way he did and I paid that ticket without a single thought about complaining about it…ev-er! It was the very least of what I deserved. I think about that man and I smile and slow down every single time I drive through his town… and I have done so for over 25 years now.

Some years back I made another friend who came from that town and I asked her if she knew a Mr. Sam Washington. She laughed and said yes, she was extremely familiar with him. He’d given her many tickets as she raced toward the church where she had helped serve the youth. Each time he gave her a ticket he also gave her a lecture similar to the one he gave me. She wasn’t mad about it, either. She understood grace, too.

I’ve thought about that a lot. To do a thankless job in a small town and do it with grace and kindness, to genuinely care about the people you’re rightfully reprimanding and still extend grace in the process, to do your job well and consistently…I don’t know for certain, but I’d guess that Sam Washington knows a thing or two about God. Whether or not that is true, Sam Washington taught me more than he could have ever imagined about God and grace and using your position of influence for good…and that was worth every single penny of that ticket.

Oh, that we would all walk and talk and work out the grace of God in our lives as we go about our business! Think about that for a little bit. What would it look like for you to live HIM as you go about your work this week? Who and how long will you influence for the better as you seek to serve God where you live and work right now?

Imagine what could happen if we all chose to travel the right path (or lane, as the case may be) to get where HE wants to be…in His time.

“We never know which lives we influence, or when, or why.” ~Stephen King (and yes, I’m as surprised as you are that I quoted Stephen King for this one!)

 

“Live lovingly, just as the Messiah also loved us and gave himself for us as an offering and sacrifice, a fragrant aroma to God.” Ephesians 5:2 (ISV)