Thursday, June 23, 2016

God’s Odd Choices


 

But Lord,” Gideon asked, “how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.” Judges 6:13


I am the youngest child in my birth family. While I was raised within spitting distance of some the wealthiest and most influential people in our city, my family had no wealth or influence. As the years passed I became a wife, a mother, not a wife and a wife again. I remained the last child, the oops baby, the mistake of older parents who had no interest in another child, let alone another girl. More years passed and in them I’ve worked in a job that I love but that carries no allure, level of respect or notoriety.

Doesn't sound too glamorous does it? It isn't. I came from inauspicious beginnings and have continued along in a fairly average life or at least that's how it looks. If you know me at all, you know that my life has been full of ups and downs, some very nice moments, some real triumphs, some heartbreaks and some failure. See, ordinary. Except, my life is not ordinary. Every day is an adventure. Not because of me, my choices or activities but because I live my life focused, as much as I can, on God. I know my Redeemer lives. I know that I am His and that makes my life pretty special.

God is amazing. Read His book. Talk about ups and downs. And characters.... the stories in the Bible are filled with very interesting men and women. Out of all the powerful, important, well spoken, over achievers, God chooses people like David, Moses, Gideon, Esther, Mary and Peter, to name just a few. They all have two things in common, they weren't the top of the heap and they were willing to answer the call. Well, eventually they were willing.

Just recently I've had two people tell me that I've made a difference in their faith lives. It isn't me, which I was quick to remind them. It's all God but He did use me to reach them. Did you see what that said? God used me, last born of a non-descript family, from an ordinary neighborhood in an ordinary city, moderately educated, as in I have no letters after my name, with an ordinary day job but with the one thing that David, Moses, Gideon, Esther, Mary and Peter had, a desire to please my Father. To hear and respond to the call from the great I AM.

Here's the good news. You can answer the call too. Do not say He isn't calling you. He is! Maybe not right this minute but at some point, you will be called on to do the will of God. (Ephesians 2:10) When He calls you might be shocked, you might say no at first, but once you say yes, you will see that it is just what you were meant to do all along.








Saturday, June 18, 2016

Call His Name



If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray
and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and forgive their sin and will heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14

This has been a horrible week in Florida, with more than one tragic and sad event happening very close to where I live. I know that the tragedy that happened in Orlando has been all over the news but I have a fairly good idea that it has been a bit more prominent here, so close to where it all occurred. We've had a front row seat to the carnage of hatred.

Earlier while I was praying I was taken by a verse in Scripture that used the words, “Jesus Christ” not hard to find that name in Scripture, so a bit odd that it would just stop me in my reading. I sat for a few minutes just thinking about that name, about other verses about the name. The two that kept running through my mind were Proverbs 18:10 where it says, “The name of the Lord is a strong tower, the righteous run to it and are safe.” And Philippians 2:10-11, “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

I knew that there was a message in those verses for me and given a current situation in my life I was pretty sure I knew what it was until God focused me on the victims from the Orlando tragedy. For days I have been seeing and hearing the word “senseless” used in reference to that horror. At first glance it does seem senseless but to that person who caused all that carnage there was more than sense, there was purpose. It is a purpose I find abhorrent, but a purpose nonetheless.

Here in America, we've become so “tolerant” that God's people are afraid to speak, afraid to stand up, lest they find themselves bloodied and gasping for life. The people in that nightclub wear a label that makes some want to point fingers, insist that they couldn't possibly love God. I disagree. I do not know a single soul, dead or alive, who was there that night. This I know, I am a Christian, who loves, honors and adores my God but I am also a sinner. If heaven forbid, an incident like this one, occurs in the local grocery or cafe, I could be a victim as well. The people who were killed were not killed because of their lifestyle. They were killed because we've opened the door to the thief. John 10:10 says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (emphasis mine) The thief comes only to do harm. He is bold. He doesn't wait for invitations. He just barges in and yet, he doesn't have to work that hard anymore. Why? Because we Americans have thrown the door wide open for him. We're so busy pointing fingers at what we see as another person's sin that we don't deal with our own. We judge far more than we pray or love.

That is not a condemnation of the life choices that are made by the people who frequented that club. It is a condemnation of so called Christians who throw the name of our Lord around as if it were used tissue paper. It is a condemnation of people who confess Jesus with their lips and walk out the door and deny Him with their lives, as Brennan Manning so perfectly phrased it.

There will always be people full of hate in the world but we are not defenseless against them. If those of us called by God's name would bow our heads and pray, love faster and far more often than we judge, live as Jesus called us and taught us to live then, then we would see more victory and less defeat.

We cannot wring our hands, shake our heads and bemoan the fact that evil is rampant in our world, in our very own country. We need to take it back. We need to fight with the best weapon we have and that is prayer. We need to wage war on our knees. We need to stop pointing fingers and start raising hands in praise.

God's Word says that if we humble ourselves and pray He will heal our land. God never, ever lies. We need to take Him at His word and pray.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Blinders



And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him,
who have been called according to his purpose.
Romans 8:28

Someone very dear to me is going through a horrible experience right now. To protect her privacy I will call her Ann. The situation that she faces now is the stuff of nightmares. There are several possible outcomes and in Ann's shoes I can imagine that I would be allowing those awful eventualities to creep in and ruin even my best moments.

Not Ann. Ann is not a look at the bright side, leap of faith kind of person either. Ann is an ignorer.

In years past this has made me insane! You can't just put on your blinders, pick and choose your truths and decide that is the whole reality. Life just does not work that way. I hate the expression, “it is what it is” but God help me, that is too often all any of us can say. Again, not Ann. She refuses to see what is, creating for herself, an alternate scenario and literally choosing to believe that is what is. Do you see where that could be annoying and frustrating to the people around her? It is also tragically sad when you know why Ann has chosen this particular coping mechanism.

Today, however, Ann's quirk, if you will, is the perfect illustration of God working all things for our good. Previously, Ann's view has simply been denial. It's been coverup. Today because she has that unique skill she can look at her current problem and see only good outcomes. She can access the situation and walk away hopeful because, as is her way, she won't look at the reality, the truth that this could take a decidedly dark turn. In this case, Ann's odd little viewpoint will enable her to do what she has to do to get through this challenge.

For years I've read this verse and occasionally been able to see the truth of it, to see something I felt as awful because it was awful, turning and working for my good. Never before have I seen something so carefully honed, so fine tuned and so totally crazy working for good. Indeed, when God says, “all things” He means, all things.

No matter what you see in yourself or another person that seems beyond hope or salvage, remember, God works all things for good for those who love and trust Him.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Unlovable


 

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness...”
             So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him,
male and female he created them.
Genesis 1:26a, 27


In the past few days I've been asked to read the same book over and over. It is the current favorite of one of my students. I'm okay with reading it every day, sometimes more than once because it is adorable.

It's the story of the cutest little dog, Alfred, who thinks that he is unlovable. These thoughts are not unfounded. The cat and the parrot are quick to tease him and tell him he is unlovable. When he leaves the toxic environment of his home, poor little Alfred meets other dogs who tell him that he is too short, too fat, too much this, not enough that. Sound familiar?

Then one day a new dog moves in next door. He and Alfred become fast friends. Alfred is sure it's because a fence separates them. If that dog could see him as he truly is, the friendship would end in a hurry. When the neighbor dog decides to dig under the fence to meet Alfred, Alfred hides. Again, sound familiar?

How many times have you said, “If they really knew me.....” and ended it with a negative prediction? How many times have you changed your behavior to comply with an individual or a group because you felt “unlovable?”

Stop it! Stop right now measuring yourself by some other human's yard stick and remember this, you are the righteousness of God in Jesus Christ. By the power of the Cross, the sacrifice of Jesus we are made whole, lovely, loveable. Don't take my word for it. Take it to the Word. Take it to John 3:16, 1 John 3:1, Psalm 139: 13-14, Romans 5:8, and so many more.

Now back to Alfred. So, the other dog digs through and sniffs Alfred out as he hides in the bush. He laughs with delight as he sees that Alfred is not the golden retriever he claimed to be but short and chunky, adorable and.... identical to himself! Alfred is delighted as well. He will not lose his friend. They look exactly the same!

My children have always accused me of having love blindness. They swear I can't see the flaws of the people I love. I'll admit that my minds eye does not see the physicality of my loved ones clearly. In that way, I think I take after my Father, a little bit. Our Father in heaven does not see us as we see ourselves. He sees us as whole, lovely, absolutely loveable and His vision, like the rest of Him, is perfect.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Judgment or Grace



God I thank you that I am not like other men.”

God have mercy on me, a sinner.”

I tell you, that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 18:11b, 13b, 14


My daughter Laura is an amazing and interesting person. She's very into, hm, let me use the word trends. It isn't that she follows them so much, as that she likes to be aware of them. She knows a little bit about a lot of things and she has some very strong opinions. Recently, I'm seeing that she also knows a lot about a few very important things. I'm pretty sure she isn't aware of that. She has this capacity to love and forgive that just doesn't leap out when you have a casual conversation with her. In those conversations you might perceive her as judgy, given those strong opinions but on closer inspection you can see that she is the first one to offer a second chance, a hand up, an opportunity to save face.

This morning as I read the parable in Luke 18:9-14 of the Pharisee and the tax collector I thought of Laura. She isn't the tax collector, yet, but she's getting there. More importantly, her view of others is much more in line with the tax collector. She's hard on herself. Sometimes she lets pride get in her way but she knows that which is a major first step.

In thinking about Laura this morning I was blessed to see where her openness, her willingness to see the good in people, to see the changes they make as they grow closer to God is drawing her closer to God as well. My daughter has great compassion.

I love the parable from Luke. I pray to have the attitude of the tax collector and pray his prayer often. “Lord, have mercy on me a sinner.” Unlike my daughter, I tend to ignore the world. I don't know most of the current popular names in the news. I can't judge them because I have no awareness of them. Sadly, that leaves me with plenty of robe and gavel time for those much closer to me.

One day I would like to leave the robe permanently in the closet and set the gavel down for good, to judge only my own behavior. Today I wonder if my daughter will get there first. She's judging the people of the news, people she will never meet. While she may still feel a bit of comfort in the Pharisee's stance, she's offering a tissue to the weeping tax collector.

All of us have our moments of judgment but if we can rise above them, give mercy and grace where we want to give judgment and punishment, we would go a long way to promoting the kingdom of our Father.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Hearing The Love



By faith, the walls of Jericho fell down after being encircled for seven days.
Hebrews 11:30

A little while ago I saw a quiz about IQ and several people’s responses to their results. It made me laugh as some of the people are very close to me and finally, maybe, seeing something I’ve been trying to tell them for years. As usual I was taken by how quick we all are to measure ourselves in comparison to others.

Shortly after seeing the quiz and the reactions, I was deep in prayer when God revealed to me that one of my biggest strongholds is allowing the opinions of one small, particular group of people to shape who I am and how I see myself. Through a very pointed Scripture He reminded me that I am His, His daughter, His creation, His beloved. Lyrics from three of my favorite songs ran through my head, all about belonging to God and how deep and great is His love for us. ( 1 John 3:1) What a blessing!

I have a little journal that I use every morning to write down ten blessings for the day. They range from the sublime, God’s grace, mercy, or something of that nature to things like tea. The lists reflect the fact that everything I have and/or am is a gift from God. He is so incredibly good to me. I am aware of that and somewhat aware that not everyone shares that same awareness. (I apologize for overworking that word.) I understand that every person’s faith is different and that there are people who truly do not think about God at all. It’s just odd to me. I cannot imagine a day where God was not in my thoughts. I talk to Him all the time. I am conscious of His presence.

That’s when I really understood what God was telling me, not for the first time, certainly but in a very intense way. It does not matter what any other human being thinks, how they see me or even what IQ they may have or I may have. I am a child of God, deeply loved, quite unique and most important, fearfully and wonderfully made. (Psalm 139)

Many years ago a friend of mine used to say, “They can’t get me into heaven but they might keep me out.” Try as I did, I could not get her to see the error of that thinking. The truth is no other person can keep us out of heaven but the influence we let other people or things have on our life, can keep us from doing all that we were created to do, or from being what we were created to be. That feels like sin, to trust another word more than the Word of God. So I sat with it for a bit. Then I listened to those songs that help me remember how deep our Father’s love truly is. I can’t say definitively that this is a life changing morning but I can say that it certainly looks that way.