Tag Archives: courage

Unlovable People (Like Me)

IMG_5180I have often told my children, “Don’t expect people who don’t know the Lord to act as if they do.” People that know the Lord have a hard enough time acting appropriately as His ambassadors. It makes it far easier to be loving toward others when we’re not focused on their actions as being prerequisite to our willingness to extend grace. After all, “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). While it’s been relatively easy for me to teach this lesson to my children, and to live it out generally myself, God has found someone to test me in this. There is a member of my family that knows all the right things to say regarding faith and was brought up in church, yet has no understanding or interest in what it means to follow Jesus as Lord. I have never encountered an individual that is more self-centered, inconsiderate, and all-around toxic than this particular person. At Bible study, the question was asked, “What distinguishes a “good person’ from a Christian in the eyes of unbelievers? Is there any difference?” The difference is Jesus, but what does that look like? First of all, Christians are not perfect – let’s just address that myth right now. We are hypocrites, broken, disturbed, incomplete people in need of spiritual guidance, and love – the same as everyone else. The difference is that we follow Jesus because He knows how to take care of all those ailments. Not all hurts will disappear this side of heaven just because we begin following Him either – we still live with the consequences of sin, our own and others. But He shows us how to live and grow and love in the middle of the struggles. And today, He’s working on me.

I was self-centered, but He loved me selflessly.

I was concerned with personal gain, but He gave to me without restraint.

I was consumed with my busy schedule, but He pencils me in without appointment.

I made mess after mess, and He cleaned them up for me.

I was ignorant of His presence, but He knew right where I was.

I tried to ignore Him, to run, but He stayed right by my side.

I was harsh and irritable, but He is patient and gentle.

I asked Him why He’s so willing to deal with fools (temporarily forgetting my place), and

He reminded me, “I get the last word.”

“Lord, help me to love this unlovable person the same way that you’ve loved me. Help me to extend grace in the face of indignant arrogance. Teach me to give with no thought of return. Help me to forgive foolishness the same way you’ve forgiven mine. You willingly went to the cross, were beaten and bruised to carry a punishment that I deserved. Then you looked down from that cross as I sat there in judgment, and said, ‘Forgive her, Father. She doesn’t know what she’s doing.’ You paid a debt that was too mountainous for me to bear or repay. You stood before the Great Judge as my Advocate and offered to pay my bail. Help me to love like that. Help me to serve like that. Help me to extend mercy where it is anything but deserved, because You did that for me. I need Your strength, Lord – Your compassion.”

Yours eternally,

Rebecca

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In the Middle of the Storm

178294-e7dd0b80-12d9-11e4-9633-5d2eb5bc90d6In the Middle of the Storm – You are there

When the Wind is a Gale – You keep me grounded

When Debris wounds my Spirit – You sustain me

When I can’t Catch my Breath – You fill me up

When I can’t see my way through – You can

When all seems lost – There You find me

When I can’t hold on – You take my hand

When my song is a whimper – You give it life

When my Endurance fails – You are my champion

In the Middle of the Storm – You are there

You hold me close

You are my strength

You are my Advocate and Judge

You are my Father and my King

Lord, Jesus, I will praise You always

Through the tears – I will praise You

Though bruised and battered – I will lift up Your Name

You are more magnificent than the greatest tempest

And Only You can calm the Storm

In the meantime, Stay with Your student and be my Teacher

Time Is…

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“Time is Fleeting.”

“Time is Infinite.”

“Time is of the Essence.”

“Time is Money.”

 Our understanding of time colors our perception of the world around us. There are essentially two modes of time: kronos and kairos. Kronos is chronological time. It involves punching a clock, scheduling, and prioritizing. Efficiency and productivity are its goals. Kairos is more elastic. It measures time in terms of relationships and events. Let me give you an example…If I asked you what you were doing at precisely 3:17pm on May 14th, 2014, you probably would have a difficult time recalling, and even if you could remember, the answer provided would be clinical, like reading it out of an appointment book. However, if I ask you to think back to your last birthday or the last time you went to your favorite restaurant with that special someone…Now the memories and related emotional responses begin to surface and flow. You can smell the food, remember the ambiance and tone of the lighting and perhaps hear background voices, even recalling whole conversations from that event – a look, a touch of the hand – it all becomes almost tangible again…

Our memory resides in kairos time, though western society functions in kronos. Most of the world still functions entirely in kairos time – punctuality is not as highly prized, getting straight to the point is considered rude and breeds distrust, and face-to-face communication is highly valued. Western-style-kronos-club members are convenience-driven. If a phone call or a text will suffice, business is done. Emails and conference calls may well close the deal – but keep them brief and succinct so the audience doesn’t fall asleep or tune you out.

When and why did we change? The key point in history came with the Industrial Revolution. Productivity became more important, with everything now being tied to earning potential. Money becomes king. As a follower of Jesus Christ, how do I reconcile that? Hmmm…

We have the concept of “free time,” meaning time not previously committed to some other endeavor, namely one that generate income. Perpetually busy, we fantasize about what we might do with our “free time.” How much money can we throw at it? And then, returning to work, the cycle begins again…

Our time, all of it, is actually free. It is a gift that God freely gives us because He is exceedingly patient…and yet it was not without a magnificent cost…

Every year, Americans celebrate Independence Day where we enjoy the freedom to participate in parades and fireworks shows, to grill hamburgers and hotdogs, go swimming or take in a baseball game – but the freedom we prize so highly came, and continues to come, at an incredible cost. Our military budget dwarfs all other nations, though we can’t seem to budget to care for our veterans when they return home – if they return. The lives lost or crippled may be quantifiable, but their value is incalculable…This is why we say that “Freedom isn’t free.” Likewise, True Freedom, that which no government or earthly authority can dictate or take away, was bought with the blood of one perfect individual – fully God and fully man – and we did nothing, nor can we accomplish anything to deserve His sacrifice. So…if Jesus bought our eternal freedom with His own blood and our time is a measure of His grace and mercy, then how should we use that gift to say, “thank you?” We are not merely stewards of the money, resources, and relationships entrusted to us, but also of the time we’ve been afforded – in whatever amount that is. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20a reads, in part, “You are not your own; you were bought at a price.” Luke 16:10-13 says, “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you’ve not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?…No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”

When Jesus said, “Come follow me…” to Andrew and Simon Peter, they walked away from their money-making livelihood and obeyed…imagine if they’d said “What about my job?” or “Can I pencil you in tomorrow?” But they knew the value of the One who called them. He may not be calling you to walk away from your job – Simon and Andrew were fishers, therefore Jesus said, “I will make you fishers of men.” If you are not a fisherman, then this is not likely what God has in store for you…Are you an architect? It may be more likely that He is grooming you to build others up. Are you a teacher? Oh, wow, does He have a tall order for you! Are you an accountant, or a bus driver, or a journalist…Jesus didn’t call all of His disciples to be “fishers of men.” He called them as He had already equipped them.

If “time is fleeting,” then we shouldn’t let it go to waste. If “time is infinite,” then we should approach everything with an eternal perspective. If “time is of the essence,” then we should walk with His Spirit, seeking His wisdom and guidance, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on you own understanding. Acknowledge Him in all your ways, and He will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own estimation; fear the Lord and turn away from evil” (Proverbs 3:5-7). If “time is money,” perhaps we would be better served by serving God with our time, talents, finances, prayers and relationships, and let Him handle the rest.

Resurrection Day

resurrection

We’ve had a few brilliant moments of clarity this month as we’ve traversed through the seven year old being sick, and then myself, car problems, and extended family health issues. One of those perfect windows where everything seemed right with the world was Easter weekend. This year as my older boys ran around hiding sugar-filled eggs for my younger girls to find, and the picture-perfect weather between storms was calming my sinuses, my thoughts wandered back to the Old Testament Book of Nehemiah. It may sound like an odd connection, but bear with me as I chase this bunny rabbit. Nehemiah traveled 1,000 miles with permission and protection from the king of Babylon to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. These walls had been rubble for generations at that point. The people were seemingly lost in despair. Before something beautiful could be constructed, Nehemiah had to take a long, hard, honest look at the damage, and then set out to clear away the debris. So often I’ve thought about something that I’d like to accomplish, but there is too much rubble in the way – too many hurdles – too many inconveniences – and somehow I convince myself that must mean it’s not God’s will for me to complete that particular project. This is exactly what kept Jerusalem wallowing in shame and destruction for so long – it seemed too great a task and they were discouraged, brokenhearted, and overwhelmed by the magnitude of the damage. Our metaphorical damaged walls and lost-ness can have the same debilitating effect – leaving us feeling powerless and ineffective. The answer is not to wait until God sends a Nehemiah, but to follow Nehemiah’s example. He prayed for four months for the city, and then God prompted the king to ask Nehemiah what was on his mind, opening up the conversation and the possibility of healing. Which brings me to the second point: Nehemiah didn’t do it alone. He had others come along side him. God used the king to provide the resources and provisions. Nehemiah’s distant relatives, most of which he’d probably never met, all pitched in and had their section of the wall they were responsible to build and defend. Just fifty-two days later the walls were built – project complete? Not hardly. The clearing of the debris was necessary to build the wall. The building of the wall was necessary for the next step, getting the heart of the city right with God, and people right with each other. There are stages to healing. Where is the debris so thick in your life that you’ve determined to just ignore it? Are you trying to do it alone? The reason that people are supposed to be in a church community is not because it’s the right club to belong to, but because we need to be there for one another, loving each other and helping each other to clear away our rubble and rebuild. “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25 NIV).

Sin is simply anything that separates us from God – it is us deciding what is right and good instead of leaning on His perfect design and plan. If a builder decides to go solo on a whim and deviate from the architects plan, it could create a big ‘ol mess or at the least distrust between team members who thought they were all on the same team with the same goals and methods in mind. When parents aren’t on the same page regarding the training of a child, distrust and brokenness can result and a rift develops in the heart of the child, which continues to impact other areas of their life and relationships. Destruction begets more destruction. We all have some level of brokenness that we have to own up to. Looking in another direction will not make it go away. Ignoring it won’t make it better. Hiding it will only cause it to fester and rot. How do we begin to clear it away? Where do we start? Start with the one who understands every inch of our lives. He was the architect who fashioned an amazing floor plan for each of us, and it was all-good until we decided to confiscate the tools and change up the design. He is perfect, loving, forgiving, and He can make all things new. In the Russian language, the word for Sunday is pronounced Vos-kre-sen-ye. It literally means “Resurrection Day.” But before Christ could be resurrected, He had to die to clean up our mess. It is too big for one person, but not for God. He is the King who provides us protection in the midst of disaster, and whose limitless resources are available to us through Jesus. “Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you” (Ephesians 5:14 NIV). The light of Christ will expose all of the ugliness that we face, but it will allow us to see our way through it – one stone, one hurt, one apology at a time. No person, no Christian, no church is perfect. When Jesus was asked why He was hanging out with tax collectors and prostitutes, He responded, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick” (Matthew 9:12; Mark 2:17; Luke 5:31 NIV). Our souls can be healed – even though we were dead in sin, separated from God, sick, and alienated from the church because of imperfect people that treated us poorly. God has a lot of patience and a lot of patients. While this life will never be perfect, He can take all your imperfect parts and employ others to help you rebuild the walls of a structure that will shelter others during their storms. You may be the answer to a prayer just 52 days from now that someone else is seeking. Shine a light on it. Find others who are following the Architect to help you resurrect this life, and rise each day in the knowledge that He loves you. He invested His whole self in you. You were an investment worth dying for, and you too can be resurrected with Him.

Born to Do This!

Born to Do...

When I was starting out in college (the first time around) I came across a letter-sized black poster with a white swoosh symbol on it. Being familiar with the commercials for Nike and the tag line, “Just Do It,” I put it on the wall in my dorm room as a reminder that no matter how tired I was, or how directionless I felt, I could not give up. The problem I had was never a lack of determination, but a longing to understand my purpose. Why did God choose to place me in the time period that He did, with the family and in the birth-order that He did, and what in the world was I supposed to do with any of the talents and resources that He’d handed me? I’d heard people with regard to this or that say to me, “You were born to do this!” But was I? Just whose voice was speaking on behalf of God? Who should I listen to?

Our oldest child wasn’t much for listening through his teenage years, but after becoming a father at age twenty on Christmas Eve 2014, he’s started asking a lot more questions, and really taking to heart the answers given. Our second oldest is getting ready to go off to college and is struggling with which university to pick. When I was where they are now, though I believed fully in Jesus Christ, I didn’t truly understand what it meant for Him to take the lead, or for me to follow. I still attempted to do things in my own strength – to do what seemed rational, logical, or responsible rather than asking the Lord AND WAITING for Him to answer. He knew I would do that, and He graciously carried me through a host of poor decisions anyway.

So I’ve walked quite a bit farther since then, but focused on keeping more in step with Jesus and His Word, and I’ve learned a lot. One of the many things He’s taught me is that (See Exodus) the enemy is always in hot pursuit. If I am listening to anything other than His Words or following any other path than the one He’s carved out for me, I will get distracted and overtaken. The enemy will pick me off and consume me. If I will wait, listen, trust Him, and follow, He will make straight my path. That path may not lead to immediate prosperity – I may wander in a desert for 40+ years – but in the midst of that, He still provides (quail, manna, water). The banquet is yet to come.

So what am I born to do? I am a missionary. It is my life’s mission to be actively involved in an intimate relationship with Jesus and to introduce others to Him. How? Find where you are motivated – What stirs you up, brings you tears of joy or frustrates you the most? As an example, when I was seven years old, the Reflections art contest theme was “I Have a Dream…” patterned after MLK Jr’s famous speech. My dream was for every child who was too poor to have a birthday party to come together and a celebration would be provided for them. When I received an allowance at age thirteen, the first thing I wanted to do was sponsor a child, which I began doing through World Vision. Imagine my tears of joy when, years later, World Vision added birthday celebrations once a year in every village and I get to be a part of it! The point is not to pat myself on the back, but to point out where my obvious motivation always was (never discount the passions of a child – there’s always an underlying theme). Take that motivating factor and mix it with the talents, abilities, and interests that God gave you & presto! You’ve got a good idea of how He wants to shape and mold you – you’ve got your starting point. You still need the light of truth that only He can provide to guide you step-by-step. My starting point is a compassion for others that leads me to combat injustice through service. The gift He’s provided that I’ve used most prolifically throughout my life is my voice. Most people thought that meant I had to perform on a stage and live in a tour bus, but God had other plans. I am a voice-over actor. I am a teacher to my children and of preschool music in my church. I am an encourager and editor to my husband (who’s soon to be a professor/preacher). I am learning to translate into other languages. I still sing – but now for an audience of One.  I am a writer, passionate about research and sharing God’s Word. And I will not give up, shut up, sit down or stop moving forward as directed by His Word until the day He calls me home. What are you born to do?

Broken

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To be broken refers to being separated into parts or pieces, altered, fractured, or damaged in some way. It indicates that an obstacle to unity has been introduced which requires assistance in order to be repaired. Often, the break is physically, emotionally, or financially painful to endure. When a bone is broken, a doctor has to follow certain steps in order to assist with healing. Treatment may begin with an x-ray of the area in question. This allows all parties to see the nature and extent of the damage. Readjustments would be required to reset the bone, and a cast to hold it in place. Regardless of the speed of healing, the area will be vulnerable and sore for a time. When the bone has healed, there is usually an additional layer of tissue that has developed to guard against the separation reoccurring in the same area. The body is designed to be self-healing, so with all obstacles removed, physical reconciliation may be achieved so that you are even stronger than before.

Emotional separation does not always heal so easily, and often there are real or imagined obstacles that cannot be tangibly x-rayed, reset, and cast. Can we guard against dealing with personal brokenness? To some extent, yes. Romans 16:17-18 reads, “Now I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who create dissensions and obstacles contrary to the teaching that you learned. Avoid them! For these are the kind who do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By their smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of the naive.” Avoidance is possible when the obstacle is known. The key to being able to achieve this is knowing the obstacle. Many of us spend incalculable hours trying to discern ourselves, our motives, and appropriate responses to life events. The self-help industry is a multi-billion dollar a year business where we go to search out ways to improve, overcome fear, or inspiration for achieving that next level of success. Each of these things being identified and accomplished, we assume, will bring us closer to happiness. So, let’s see…

To overcome…To those in the middle of a specific battle, Jeremiah 1:19 relays a promise, “’They will attack you but they will not be able to overcome you, for I will be with you to rescue you,’ says the Lord.” Romans12:21 says, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Two tips – good rules and God rescues.

To achieve…1 Samuel 18:14 “Now David achieved success in all he did, for the Lord was with him.” In Ecclesiastes 2:10-11 we see personal reflection regarding achievements, “I did not restrain myself from getting whatever I wanted; I did not deny myself anything that would bring me pleasure. So all my accomplishments gave me joy; this was my reward for all my effort. Yet when I reflected on everything I had accomplished and on all the effort that I had expended to accomplish it, I concluded: ‘All these achievements and possessions are ultimately profitless—like chasing the wind! There is nothing gained from them on earth.’” In fact, read all of chapter 2. It’s a great philosophical mind-tangent trying to understand feelings of utility and what ultimately can bring about experiencing joy!

If success is measured by something being achieved or gained, then you find that in Proverbs 16:20, “The one who deals wisely in a matter will find success, and blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord.” I’m seeing a pattern here. Success, joy, unity, and happiness can be found by trusting in the Lord! Simple, right? There is nothing that we can impress Him with. He only wants a love relationship based on trust. Unfortunately, when trust is the very thing that has been broken in some way by someone who is a father or father-figure, a mother, a best friend, another person professing to be a Christian… It’s much easier for many to cry “malpractice” rather than to look to God as the Doctor who can heal all wounds. Too often, a trust has been violated and those who claim to follow Jesus Christ are more interested in diagnosing the sin and then categorizing and discussing it in committee while the patient lies there in pain. The name of God is cursed among those who don’t believe in Him because of many who call themselves by His name, have wounded others in His name, and/or have elevated themselves above others using His name as their slogan! Jesus says, “But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a huge millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the open sea.” Romans 14 says we should not “do anything that causes your brother to stumble.” We are ambassadors for God on Earth. Ambassadors come bearing His message of love and forgiveness, not wearing a powdered wig and holding a gavel. But I digress…

Brokenness will not heal overnight. Don’t expect it to. Brokenness may mean some pieces get lost along the way. Brokenness may cause us to put up artificial emotional and mental barriers or walls in order to cope. This is not the type of cast Doctor God would necessarily use. It is exactly now, at our most vulnerable, that Jesus speaks. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” Matthew 11:28. Imagine for a minute someone who’s never stepped foot in a gym, but has prayed for strength. Will He give you superhuman strength just by your walking in the front door, or after the first workout, or will He give you opportunities and the time necessary to become stronger? If you are jobless or underemployed and seeking a way to provide for your family, will God hand you a lump sum of cash, or will He condition you to serve in some manner that is productive for others? Learn to be daily dependent on Him. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been away trying to make your own decisions. He is a kind and gentle father, employer, provider, brother, friend who is patient with you and understands your needs. I know I would not be where I am today without Him. Without Him, I searched for acceptance in one broken relationship after another. Without Him, I made poor and self-centered financial decisions. Without Him, my gifts and talents were misused and had no direction. Without Him, I was exhausted…In Him, I found rest. In Him, I found comfort. In Him, I learned that I am loved just for being who He created me to be and that I didn’t have to feel like a performing monkey, get the highest grades, earn the biggest paycheck, or fit in with any particular group of people. He put the pieces back together when I didn’t have the strength, and He replaced those that were damaged beyond repair. In Him, I found something better. In Him, I am free.