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!

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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

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!

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)

Coffee candles and bad apples

breakfast  Good morning and welcome to breakfast with Becky! (No, I’m not really that peppy or even that awake yet, but the fruit/granola/yogurt mixture will fix that up for me in just a little bit…well, that and the smell of coffee…but I’ll get to that in a little bit.)

I’ve read  at least 3 different blogs within the past 24 hours that apologized for their lengthy absence and vowed to try to do better. I guess this at least means I’ve got a club I can join…if I were the club-joining type.

The fact of the matter is this: life is sometimes hard and messy and complicated and busy and as much as I would love to blog every single day, there simply isn’t enough time to do that. Sometimes there is time, but there aren’t words that will go into an order that won’t alarm the general populace or make any sense to me, much less to those of you who meet me here. Sometimes, silence really is golden…and necessary.

Right now, I’m typing this on a desk that is so pile-filled with paperwork that I’m actually having to steady the keyboard and I’m using the back-button A LOT so that typos won’t drive us all to distraction. I’d move the piles, but then I’d have to start over and reset them later today and so, for now, this will have to do.

Our week started off with a trip to the ER. We left our house before 9:30 AM on Sunday morning and arrived back home just a bit before 1 AM on Monday. We are blessed. God provided up to and including chairs that were far out into the waiting room hall so that we weren’t surrounded (read TRAPPED!) in the midst of all the flu victims as we waited for my husband to get his turn for medical care and his issue should be able to resolved without further invasion. Unfortunately, the start to this week has felt a lot like the last couple of months and yet, I know it still…God is good.

My husband has returned to work and is, even now, being used of God to provide for us and I am grateful. I’m also grateful for those who have checked on us and prayed for us and loved on us in all manner of ways. I’m particularly grateful for my friends Kelley and Marsha, who have been so diligent to check on ME as well as my sweet hubby and join him in a united insistence that I take some time for myself…so I’m blogging about it. This is my ME time for today.

Yesterday was quiet and I was under specific orders from my husband to take some time to rest, so I turned on the TV to listen to old NCIS reruns (love that show!) while I cleaned out kitchen cabinets and linen closets and did laundry and bathroom chores…in my nightclothes…until 4 pm. It was great. Not, perhaps, YOUR idea of a day off, but the normalcy of it (although I do not generally do these things in my nightwear!) was a balm straight from Gilead to my soul. The ordering of life in small doses and the putting right that which has need of order is spectacularly gratifying when so much is beyond your control.

Anyway, as I sorted and assembled piles for throw away and take away/donate yesterday, I decided I’d use the new-to-me-but-really-actually-from-the-1930s/40s glass coffee container in my kitchen. I’ll post a picture of it later, but, for now, just know it is really cool. The problem is that we aren’t really big coffee drinkers. Friends and family generally bring their own stuff when they come because we’re more a juice/water/milk household here…but this jar was too cool to leave where I found it, so I brought it home. I cleaned it up and started looking for coffee to put in it. I found some, but it was pretty evident that I’d had it awhile (think: it moved from MS with me over a year ago now old!) and so I searched on. There in the back of the cabinet was a brand new unopened bag of coffee…with ancoffee candle bad apple expiration date that had passed several months ago. Well. What to do now? I wouldn’t want to drink it, but it still smelled amazing, so I made a quick decision and grabbed a vase and a candle from the back porch stash. I poured the coffee into the vase and set the candle in on top and voila! I now have an amazing coffee-candle-vase-thing that looks great and smells heavenly. It was such a pleasure to walk out this morning and inhale that wonderful aroma that I almost understand all of you people who can’t seem to start your day without drinking a cup…or twelve (yes, I also have those friends.)

 I took a photo for you to see and I really wish we had smell-o-vision for this one because it would be great! I downloaded the picture and then I noticed it…one of my apples has a bad spot on it. UGH! Well, in the interest of making the post pretty and, of course, making all of you think that I’m still that person who has it all together (HA!!) I ran back out of the room to rearrange the fruit and took another photo (see it over there? It’s the second one that looks almost like the first one!), because, seriously who wants such a great  celebration of my totally unexpectedly great coffee crafty thing to be ruined by a bad apple?! And then I started laughing at myself, because truly…who cares? The coffee candle crafty thing still smells amazing and this just tells me that I’ll be cutting off the bad spot and adding in a few others to make a nice baked apple side for supper tonight. How terrible can that be? The house will smell like coffee and baked apples tonight and all will be well…because here’s the lesson of the day:

God is good even to those of us who are control freaks. He is good to those of us who are tired and in desperate need of normal days where something–anything, please!–goes like we planned it. He is good to those of us who look like we have it all together, but really know it’s all in how you arrange your fruit and take your shot. He is good to those who will know what I’m talking about and to those who have no idea and to those who will think I’ve finally and truly lost it this time. God is just good.

 

 

Paris in my living room

Factual doesn’t always mean truthful and sometimes the events of the day just can’t be processed without a trip into the Word and the mind of God. Yesterday was just such a day in Paris and around the world.

Men chose to take lives...twelve of them with more hanging in the balance…in the name of their religious zealotry. It was reported that they repeatedly yelled, “Allahu Akbar!” which we’re told means “God is Great!” or “God is [the] Greatest!” as they deliberately killed people with souls created by the very same God who created their own.

Whatever else you read or hear about this heinous act, don’t for one single second believe that these men committed these murders in the name of God. It simply wouldn’t be true. Why would an all-powerful God need any human assistance to accomplish His will or defend His honor in such a way here on earth? Is there anything “honorable” about the destruction of human life? Absolutely not. God is the Creator of life and the destruction of it is His purview alone.

We may never know all of the twisted reasoning behind it, but it is absolutely certain that God didn’t have anything to do with this horrible lampoon of His name. (And the horrific irony that their actions were against a group of people who make light of religions of all kinds is not lost on me at all.) Terrorism and the deliberately wanton desecration of life simply isn’t within God’s nature, therefore it couldn’t possibly be within His will.

Horrible, hateful acts have been committed all over the globe and by supposed followers of every single religion for centuries. It doesn’t mean those people were following God any more than these three men. In fact, those kinds of actions prove just the opposite—and it might shock some of the perpetrators if they actually got to know God a little better and found out what He really thinks. It’s for certain that the nightly news would have a drastically different content.

As I heard the reports and read accounts from several different sources, I decided that I needed to return to the only Source that really matters, so I picked up my Bible and since my mind was just blown at the audacity of this assassination of God’s character, I started where I usually go when things don’t make sense to me. I started in the Psalms with the 139th chapter.

Psalm 139 has been a place of refuge and a plumb line for truth for me for as long as I can remember. It is my reminder that I will never be alone, that I was created deliberately and with specific attention to detail, that I am known personally and intimately, that God cares enough about me to plan out my days, that He thinks of me constantly and that, as well as I know myself, HE knows me even better. More than anything else, Psalm 139 emphasizes that God is not in search of people who are religious–He is far more interested in people who want to pursue a relationship with Him. 

It’s comforting to know those things…and to know that God is also aware that people will act in ways that don’t honor Him and take His name in vain by giving Him the “credit” for those actions. David’s words remind us that it is natural to hate those who act so despicably and to call them our enemies, but I’m also reminded that the One whose name was slandered by their actions yesterday still loves them just as much as He loves us. We are not called to emulate them in hate, but to emulate HIM in love. How we do that will be something that will take more time to discern than it does to write a blog post, but one thing is for certain: it is up to us to LIVE HIM even in this.

I can’t answer for them. It isn’t my place. It IS my place to join David in asking God to judge ME and that will give me more than enough to handle for now.

“Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me, and know my anxieties;
And see if there is any wicked way in me,
And lead me in the way everlasting.”  Psalm 139:23-24