Wednesday, September 30, 2009

"Things that Go Bumpity Bump on a Quiet Day"

It was a quiet afternoon, in my quiet neighborhood,  in my quiet house. The wind was blowing and a storm was brewing, but still “quiet” best described the day. 

Until, suddenly, I began to hear all kinds of commotion. At first I couldn’t pin it down: where it was coming from or what it was, but it was close.       In the house? On the house? Downstairs? Was someone here? Was someone throwing boxes, pounding on the walls? “WHAT IS THAT?” I wondered.

Finally I was able to pinpoint a probable location. Somewhere to the back of the house, but by the time  I got there the noise had moved to the top of the house. No, it was moving around on the roof. Aha! Squirrels! Squirrels of unusual size. No, I reasoned, this was definitely too much noise and too much “roughhousing” for even the lively, pesky squirrels that inhabit my yard
But something was on the roof! An elephant, perhaps?

On further investigation I discovered the source of the commotion. The umbrella from the table on my porch was on the roof and rolling from one side to the other at a pretty good pace! It bounced and cavorted and did a feisty wind dance. As I waited and watched and tried to decide whether to go grab the ladder and go up after it, the wind blew it back off the roof and, between the table and me, it was contained once again.

So then “quiet” went back to “quiet” and I went back to work...only now I had something else to think about! Two things, actually. The first was this. Only a few years ago I would have been scared senseless! I would have thoroughly convinced myself that someone uninvited was in my house and that I was in imminent danger. I would have been terrified and my reaction would have been extreme and dramatic. Fear has a way of doing that to you. Left unchecked, my imagination has a way of running away with itself!
But, those of you who “know my story” also know that God miraculously delivered me from fear several years ago and I don’t live like that any longer. Fear no longer paralyzes or controls me. Thank you, LORD God.

The second thing this incident reminded me of is how quickly we “jump to conclusions” without all of the facts. There are a number of biblical accounts of just such a thing. Eli the priest found Hannah crying sorrowfully and praying under her breath in the Temple and assumed she was drunk. (Simply adding more wounds to an already desperate woman.) My favorite (?) example happens in Joshua 22 when the tribes of Israel almost go to war against each other because of false assumptions and misread “signs.” There are a number of other examples in the New Testament, as well.

It’s human nature, I guess, to make assumptions based on what we think we see; to make judgments after only hearing one side of a story; to think we know more than we do and to judge a person’s motives without knowing all there is to know. Good reasons to live “above reproach” and to daily live our lives under the power and the influence of the Holy One.

Father God, keep me from faulty judgments and give me daily wisdom to live my life in a way that bears up under the eye of a watching world. Keep me from presumption and unfair judgements. Guard my heart and my ways and give me the wisdom to check things out BEFORE I react!
And thank you that fear no longer defines my life.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

"The Revenge Gene Must Die!"

It happened a while back, I was being snubbed and ignored...purposefully. To me it was blatantly obvious and I knew her reasons and that she wasn't interested in reconciliation. I had already done what I believed I needed to do to rectify the situation, so I had a choice to make. I could choose to "repay evil with evil." I could mimic her behavior and totally ignore her, as well. I could easily turn my head when she spoke, walk out of the room when she walked in and avoid her at all costs. I could choose to do that or I could choose the Christ way. I could choose to do the opposite of what my flesh would have liked me to do and what would have been pleasing to the enemy of my soul. I was tempted, believe me, I was tempted!

But the Holy Spirit would have none of that. He compels me to "practice what I preach" even when I don't "feel like it" and that means I have to be more concerned with what will bring glory to my Father, rather than what might bring a moments satisfaction to my revenge gene! (The one I am determined, with my Father's help, to crucify!)

In the four and 1/2 years that I studied biblical conflict resolution (because I had a desperate need of it) the one most powerful lesson I learned from Ken Sande with Peacemaker Ministries is this, "EVERY conflict is an opportunity; An opportunity to Glorify God, Serve Others and Be Like Christ! And so, again, I was left with a choice...which is really no choice at all...I knew what I had to do. I knew what was required of me. Jesus spoke to me right out of Luke chapter 6. (I am convinced that, when Christ spoke those words to the disciples so long ago, He knew that eventually they would catch up with me and sear their place in my needy heart!)

He said....
27"But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic.Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you..."

So I chose, day-by-day, to glorify God with my attitude and my behavior and to "redirect" my thoughts when they wanted to take me elsewhere; To serve her-literally-every chance I got and to pray for her in quiet moments of the day and the wee morning hours of the night. I don't know if any of it made a difference to her or not...that really wasn't the point. The point was this, the enemy of my soul wanted to use her and the situation for his own devilish purposes, but my Father God trumped him the moment I chose to do the right thing and you know what? That revenge gene will bite the dust! Praise God!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

"Me No Shame On!"

I don't know exactly how old he was, my brother Kim, maybe two, and I couldn't have been four yet. I do, though, remember the conversation clearly and distinctly, at least a brief part of it. It is indelibly imprinted in my mind's eye.

Kim was doing something he wasn't supposed to and I am sure our mother had told him several times to "STOP IT!" Until she finally shook her finger at him and said, "Shame on you!" To which Kim, defiantly and indignantly responded, "Me no shame on!"

"Me no shame on!" has become a battle cry of sorts.

The conversation took place this past week while I vacationed with friends at the beach. Three of us are on a "healing journey." We are committed to living Christ honoring lives free from the "baggage" of our pasts, whatever the cost. And that means dealing with issues of shame that have the potential to paralyze, demoralize and cripple. Shame has crippled our lives in many ways; especially in how we perceive ourselves and others. We are determined to be free of it!

Last October I was eating lunch with friends after church when a mother with a couple of boys in tow passed our table. She had her hand on her youngest son's shoulder as she propelled him out of the restaurant and, just as they passed our table, we heard her say, "You, young man, are going to confession very soon!" I know my mouth dropped open and probably stayed that way for several seconds as I tried to absorb such a comment. (It still baffles me even now!)

My thoughts and comments, at that moment, were, "That poor kid is going to grow up resenting God and his mother. He is going to be one very wounded young man!" He is just as likely to run away from "the church" and his condemning mother and the God he most likely perceives to be "the big man upstairs with the great big stick looking for someone to beat up and punish!" (I can't think of that boy without a pang of grief and sorrow! I wonder if he will ever understand my Father who is "faithful and just" and slow to anger.)

Oh yes, of course, there is a place for confession and repentance, without a doubt. The two are necessary. In fact, they are essential! They are the very essence of true freedom! But they come clothed in grace and mercy. They are ushered in by the realization of the lavish and extravagant love of Father God. They are not the legalistic shame brought on by misunderstood concepts, or doctrines of men, or the enemy of our souls or our own wounded parents, for that matter!

The Apostle Paul says in 2 Corinthians 7:10 "Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death."

I am sure we would all benefit greatly from a good dose of "godly sorrow" but let's refuse to receive the shame that hinders emotional and spiritual well being. I will be pondering this one for a while and daily learning to recognize one from the other; “Is this godly sorrow or enemy inflicted shame?” And, when the enemy points his finger in my face with accusations, I will respond with childlike faith... "Me no shame on!"

Monday, September 21, 2009

Bruised and Broken

Isaiah 42:3 A bruised reed He will not break, and a smoldering wick He will not snuff out. In faithfulness He will bring forth justice...

There I was sitting on the steps to the beach, trying to stay out of the sun. (My fair skin and it’s bright rays have had a lifelong battle with one another.) So I was hiding, trying to the best of my ability, to stay out of its sight and yet still enjoy the wind, the cloudless sky and the relentless, pounding waves (a sound I love to hear.)

It wasn’t long before I noticed, through my hiding slats, the picture of nature just to my right. A broken, wind torn, wave tossed fence meant to preserve the beach vegetation lay tangled beside me; for the most part crushing and bruising the reeds it was meant to protect. Twisted and bent, scarred and battered it reminded me of life.

Every year I look forward to this week. One whole week at the beach with friends of many years. Some of them I only see during this time...did I mention how special this is to me? So, it is often a time of reconnecting, reflection and sharing. On Sunday morning we share a time of worship and I usually share some thoughts in the Word and then comes the best part, when many will share their struggles or joys, their triumphs or sorrows and we will pray for one another.

This has been just such a year. Among us there has been intense mourning over deep loss, triumphant rejoicing over the weddings of four daughters, new grandbabies, expected grandbabies, healed marriages and a new marriage to come yet this year...of one of us! An unexpected blessing.

There has been growth, but it has come from the depths of trials and tribulations of all sorts. And that is life. It is what we are promised in scripture. There will be stuff. And, it is in “the stuff” that our character is formed, that we learn to trust our faithful God and Father and that we rally together around one another...if we are wise.

If you look closely at the broken fence you will see that it is held together by strands of wire. Even broken and worn there is a “holding together.” I am glad that God created us to be a communal people. He placed us in units; families, marriages, churches and communities. But even while our “units” may, at times, fail the end, all by ourselves, alone on planet earth, when it comes right down to the basic is He who holds all things together! It is He who finds the lost, rescues the struggler, heals the wounds, upholds His people, binds up our broken hearts. It is He and He alone.

Psalm 73:25 Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

So, What Are YOU Going to Do, LORD?

If you have ever prayed a desperate prayer, then maybe you too,
will resonate with the cry of my heart today...

LORD, my prayer is bigger than big-it is enormous...
It's not for me.
It's not for "some thing."
It is not casual.
It is HUGE,
A miracle of dynamic proportions in every sense of the word.

It is for healing,
for restoration,
for the rebuilding of what never was,
or for what has been destroyed...
by life,
by trials,
by wounds,
by loss.

It is said of YOU, "Nothing is impossible with God."
I believe that!
I believe that with everything that is in me.
My prayer,
My request,
My "hope in YOU" has no other basis than this...
"All things are possible with God."

Father, without You,
without Your intervention,
Without an outpouring of grace
And an infilling of Your Spirit,
all is lost in this.
Only You can bring about change.
Only You can work the impossible.
Only You can bring about the mighty miracle that is needed.
Only You!

All is lost without You.
So, what are you going to do about this?

1 John 5:14-15
This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us-whatever we ask-we know that we have what we asked of him.