Tag Archives: freedom

I Am a Dumb Bass

smallmouth-bass-picture

I began this year contemplating the word “honor.”  What does it mean to honor your father and mother?  What does it mean to be honored?  How does this abstract term manifest itself in our culture as opposed to another?  In contemplating all the different ways this concept could be broken down, I had difficulty determining which aspect to start with…and time passed…and I got distracted…

I am drawn back now to this topic, and to writing in general, because of the last few sermons given at our church.  A few weeks back, our Senior Pastor made an example out of fish.  Apparently, it is far easier to catch a bass than it is to catch a trout.  The way he tells it, trout are very discerning and test the bait to make sure it isn’t fake, while the bass will be fooled by anything shiny.  This comparative caught my attention, because I realized that I’m the dumb bass!  I have a tendency to be distracted by just about everything, and with a large family, it’s extra easy to fall into a cycle where you can’t tell what a distraction is from where you’re supposed to be focused at the moment!  I sometimes feel like the dog in the movie “Up,” who was distracted every time he saw a squirrel.  The louder, more sparkly, and more time consuming the venture is, the more likely that I am drawn into it!  My prayer lately has been, “Lord, help me to focus…on the right stuff!  Help me to say ‘no’ when I need to say ‘no.’  Help me to identify and then promptly ignore everything that keeps me from your purpose for me today, tomorrow and beyond.  Help me to remember who I am, and to act accordingly.”  I encourage you to read with me in the Book of James, Chapter 1…just read the whole book.  It’s not long, and it is intense!  The verse that I am clinging to at the moment is James 1:25,

“But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it – not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it – they will be blessed in what they do.”

I hope that you are able to be still, know that He is God, that He has a perfect plan, and that you and I are part of it!  We need to honor God with our focus!  What are you focusing on?  Let’s, together, remember that we are His ambassadors, armed and sent out with a message of forgiveness, reconciliation, and love – like no other love on earth.  Dwell, meditate, recite, remember the words the God has left with us – they are more valuable than gold.  Do you want true freedom?  James 1:25 is the first step, your first clue, to a life you have only imagined and more.  Pray for my focus and I will pray for yours – Be more like the Trout! Let’s do this!

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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.

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?

Pigeonholed

pigionholes

 

Pigeonholed

A few reasonable definitions might be “to assign to a particular category or class, especially in a manner that is too rigid or exclusive,” or “an oversimplification of a group or individual that paints an inaccurate portrait of reality as it applies to that group or person.”

People who are pigeon-holed are classified consciously or unconsciously by another or group of others in an attempt to compartmentalize or understand something that is perhaps beyond their level of interest or comprehension. This allows them to put the matter aside and ignore it.

These neat little mental boxes effectively create barriers between the two parties and can cause open communication to disintegrate.

I find it to be particularly painful when the misperceptions, or lackadaisical approach to relationship building is perpetrated by those who should know better, those who claim to have a relationship with you, but clearly hale from a different planet.

Certainly, I’m venting a bit of personal frustration, but I’m truly writing in order that I might share what helps me to bear up under some fairly heavy annoyances:

1) I don’t have to bear them alone. I have a Savior who understands me for better and worse. He has said, “I will never leave you and I will never abandon you” (Hebrews 13:5).

2) He understands my frustration because He has felt it in far greater measure than I have. Those who should know Him the best often try to put Him in a neat little box and they miss the bigger, truer, more beautiful picture.

“The Lord looks down from heaven on all mankind to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God” (Psalm 14:2).

“…Those responsible for teaching my law did not really know me…(Jeremiah 2:8).

“…my people are foolish. They do not know me…They have no understanding…” (Jeremiah 4:22).

In John 7:27, Jesus is speaking in the temple and some want to believe, but they dismiss His teaching because of an inaccurate perception, “But we know where this man is from; when the Messiah comes, no one will know where he is from.”

The people had their own version of what the Messiah would be like — a mighty warrior-king after the more masculine fashion of David, a lion from a far-off place. But they forgot Isaiah 40:10-11, “See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power… He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.” King David was first a shepherd, before claiming the throne as king. The Lord Jesus also is our Shepherd and is exceedingly patient with us (2 Peter 3:9). One day He will return as our conquering King, but in the meantime, He endures the mislabeling, misunderstanding, and mistreatment of His name.  One day all will see clearly.

3) There is a teachable element in all circumstances. Sin and fear blind us to the truth around us and within ourselves. I have to ask myself, “How often have I been guilty of trying to pigeon-hole or ignore God?” I can then ask His forgiveness and learn how to grow closer to Him. You can’t change others perceptions necessarily, but you can learn from the situation and alter the way that you approach The King. When you truly love someone, it pains you to have hurt or neglected them in some way, and by realizing the distance you’ve created, you’ll naturally wish to move closer to them in proximity and intimacy in order to repair the breach, thereby growing positively in your relationship.

If you don’t know Him yet, introduce yourself. If it’s been a while since you put Him on a shelf, revisit the box, and you’ll find that you never really had Him contained anyway.

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.