The rain falls

You’ve heard it, right?

“The rain falls on the just and the unjust.”

We quote it quite often to imply that bad things happen to good people, but do we possibly have it backward? Rain could mean blessings, after all it takes rain to grow a crop and to provide a break from the drought. In fact, with the exception of the flood, rain is not depicted as a bad thing. So what of this verse? Well, let’s start by reading it in context.

“In this way you show that you are children of your Father in heaven. He makes his sun rise on people whether they are good or evil. He lets rain fall on them whether they are just or unjust.” (Matthew 5:45)

Why is Jesus having this conversation? What is He teaching? He’s teaching about love. More importantly, He is talking about loving your enemies. See, we are an “either/or”,” this or that” society and culture. But Jesus was in an “either/and” as well as a “this and this” culture. Many times in order to emphasize something it was said a multitude of times, three times would be the ultimate number of repetitions. In this moment with the disciples Jesus is in the process of telling them and retelling them that God provides blessing (the sun rising) and blessing (the rain fall) on the just and the unjust. That’s important!

This same conversation is recorded in Luke, and He words it a little differently (and since He’s a doctor, maybe a little more intellectually.)

“But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.”

Ahhh. The and with the and. “He is kind (the sun shines, the rain falls) to the ungrateful and the wicked.” Wait. Matthew puts the “unjust” in there, but Luke says overwhelmingly, “the wicked.” We know it is the same conversation, the same teaching.. So why the different verbiage? Maybe it has more to do with the writer than the Speaker.

Who is Matthew? A formerly, notoriously unjust man, a tax collector. He is there as Jesus is sharing this story about loving your enemies (of which he knows he was one) and as He speaks, Matthew is experiencing blessing! Not only was God kind to him, He had chosen him as a follower and cohort and put him in charge of the money! Okay. That’s like the the alcoholic being keeper of the wine for the Lord’s supper. That is a responsibility not just of trust but of proof of redemption! Matthew is hearing this through the ears of a formally publicly condemned sinner, and in his interpretation Jesus might as well be pointing at him, “See? I bless and hang out with those you’ve condemned.” Luke on the other hand didn’t have that lens, he heard Jesus say that God is kind to those we might consider wicked, enemies of our souls. Both men share the same message of Jesus to love those who do evil just as God does, but in their interpretations based on their personal experience, we hear how that message affects each one! But, the message is the same, “God who loves and is kind to those who hate him, asks the same of you.”

I can’t help but think of Christians and our wrestle with the LBGTQ community. So many call them on sin saying they are sinners, stopping short of calling them wicked (or some out and out doing so), but if that’s the case, God is kind to them. He chooses to bless them and give them good things, regardless. So “Love your enemy” looks more like be kind to your enemy and bless your enemy… And enemies look like those we don’t agree with who commit actions that we think are evil or against God’s plan. Ahhh. And, they are entitled to the sun and the rain just as the Godly are, without prejudice or bias or judgement. That looks different, that feels different, that steps on the toes of the righteously political. But, that’s what loving our neighbor looks like – Doing for others not because they deserve it or because they are worthy, but because we recognize we aren’t, and, as much as it may pain us to speak it, God desires to see them blessed.

Crazy, this God Who loves us – ALL of us! And the rain falls equally across the landscape of humanity.

IMG_8287.JPG

Facebook Fast

IMG_6716.JPG

Okay.. It wasn’t a fast. I straight up wanted out. Out of the drama. Out of the posts that were less than authentic. Out of the arguments. The back biting. The passive aggressive warfare meant to injure with wit and snark and the ever revealing emoticons. Off the breeding ground for competition.

So, I got off. No explanation. No “don’t you wish you were this pious” statements. I just left. Status hanging in mid air, comments left unmade, posts unliked and liked. I agree that originally my emotions led the choice, but my mind kept the commitment. And it was hard… At first.

I felt out of the loop.
People would text me and say “Did you see such and such?”, and I hadn’t. People would start conversations about something they saw in a status and all I could do was listen and silently agree or disagree. Articles posted would be fodder for discussion, and I wouldn’t have a clue.

I felt isolated.
Here is the sad truth of it, most of my friends stopped communicating with me. Not sure if it’s just more convenient to chat through Facebook or if it was an “out of sight, out of mind” thing regardless, my phone stayed silent.
A lot.

I felt limited.
Take this blog for instance… You either stumbled upon it by chance, saw it on Pinterest (because let’s be honest what woman can live without that!!?) or happen to already follow me. There is something about having a cyber megaphone. Those lessons become group sessions and those words of hope become anthems! But, without Facebook, my ability to project was severely limited. I felt like a lion who suddenly became a tiny mouse. Where was my voice?

But, despite those inconveniences, here is what I found.

Time to read.
My Bible Study time increased exponentially. I’ve always been a reader and studier but now I was reading and studying simply for me.. Not to share a scripture or what God was teaching me. My lessons became truly my lessons not rolling through a Rolodex of names thinking who would benefit from my study.

I found more time for my girls to play or to talk or just to enjoy a movie or show on Netflix without interruption. It is amazing how much more “quality” that time becomes when half of it doesn’t consist of scouting out “I need to put this on Facebook” moments.

I came to appreciate Silence.
I realized that without a half dozen notifications popping up on my screen every 30 minutes I could actually set my phone aside. Like, in the back bedroom, far from my sight and from my ear. I actually missed texts! Can you imagine!? Remarkably, the world did not end.

I found less need for validation.
Did you know that research has found that the endorphin rush of getting a “like” on social media is akin to an addiction? Test yourself. Do you find yourself constantly checking likes, shares, and comments and feeling extreme disappointment when they don’t show? You might have a problem. Suddenly what we liked and what we need is based on what everyone else thinks what we should like and should need. Approval is a drug. And I can be an addict.

I faced Reality.
There was no hiding behind poignant posts to mask my feelings. Talking to my soul became quiet.. One on one.. And I found my soul without the encouragement of the Body, was significantly less empowered. There is a reason why God said it isn’t good for man to be alone, and whereas Facebook has it’s major hang ups and distractions, it can also be a beacon of hope to the desperate the discouraged and the hurting. Reality bites. It’s good to have those who recognize that taste.

I will find my way back to the Book of Faces in a few more weeks, but I am wiser having released myself (even if momentarily) from it’s hungry grasp. I challenge you to try. Break free. See what you’re missing and return with a purpose for being there.. Because it isn’t there to create a pretend life, it isn’t there to take out your anger based on insecurities on those who would be exposed, it isn’t there to aid you in posting pictures and being validated and bragging on our kids (which certainly impacts them more if we SAY it not tag it), but it IS about belonging, finding a place to share your voice, to grow in faith and understanding. If you’re a Christian, it’s a place for ministry and mission work. Just don’t get lost. Because in a world of faces, we need to see more of you… Literally.

Magnetic

IMG_6591.JPG
As a teen, I wondered what would make me more attractive to those around me. I knew I wouldn’t be the most beautiful or the most talented or even the most talkative (shocking, I know!), but I wanted to be someone who stood out. I struggled to feel important and even necessary at some points. I wondered why I struggled so much even as I believed in Christ – that should be the answer right? And He was, but I didn’t know what that looked like for me or to those around me.

The struggle was real.

Recently, I was given a book to read that really put those questions in perspective. Here I am 38 (gasp!) years old, and I still find myself struggling to be seen or to be attractive. So much for “it won’t matter when you’re older.” It matters. And even more so, it matters to all of us girls – young or old, ancient or adolescent. We all want to know we are contributing beauty to the world we live in and when we are gone will leave a void where our shining light used to be.

“Magnetic – Becoming the Girl He Wants” by Lynn Cowell ties all these thoughts together and provides a blueprint to help you get there. Sounds too good to be true?… Well, it depends on which “he” you want to get! Galatians 5:22-23 gives us a list of characteristics that will lead us directly to becoming a person of influence. They are called “Fruits of the Spirit” and each one of them are pleasing and attractive to those that are affected by them and infected with them. (Infections aren’t all that attractive but for the sake of poetic license just go with it.)

Cowell takes each fruit and defines what they mean translated into day to day life. It may be a book written for teen girls, but each issue addressed can carry over into the life of any woman struggling to be more. She gives practical advise to rethink how you deal with the world and circumstances around you and pushes it through the lens of the Holy Spirit, Who alone has the power to transform your mind and your life! The point is to establish a sweeter character by changing the way you act and react – whether it’s love and understanding that love is compassionate, or peace and bringing His peace to those around you, or self-control and taking reign over that little two edged sword the tongue! Ultimately, incorporating these characteristics affects the world around you, sets you apart as someone of grace, and this will make you stand out like a candlelight in a darkened room.

The beauty that Lynn tries to portray is this … You aren’t worthless or unlovely or unimportant, but as you live in the power of the Holy Spirit, He attracts the right people to you! This is important to teen girls as they desire to attract teen boys, but good boys that don’t need sex to spell out love or arm candy to parade around to his friends but sincerely desires to find a girl who loves him for him and who challenges him to be a better man and most of all recognizes and admires the character of Christ in her. Because if you have ever seen a magnet line up with other random metal objects, it is the magnet with equal or greater strength that is most powerfully attracted to the first!

I presently have an 11 year old girl and a 13 year old girl, and I will give them this book to read because it’s important. I want them to seek to be His not just be popular or the best. It is my heart that they will establish these characteristics into their own lives and not see it as so much a struggle but a challenge. I want them to gain the right attention and to be treated the right ways, and perhaps more importantly, I want to see them treat others the right way. I want them to know that they are enough and Christ in them makes them MAGNETIC!

Do your daughters, nieces, granddaughters or Goddaughters a favor and buy them this book! I assure you, as one who has a decade of experience ministering to broken hearts and hurting souls, you will be making an investment in their future.

Order yours here 🙂

Waist Deep

20140630-180700-65220506.jpg
It’s that moment.

I’m standing waist high in the ocean..mere feet from shore, with my feet planted. For the longest moment I stand, face lifted upwards, the glow of the sun feeding my weary soul. I could stay here forever, basking in the peace of its rays, but just as I get comfortable, inhaling the ocean scent as I watch the gulls lite upon the shore, I hear the roar rising up behind me, the crash of the crest of the wave as it barrels toward me, and in that moment, I have a choice – dig my feet in the sand and brace for the impact or run.

Somehow I know if I move I will be overtaken, sucked under, swept up in the mighty wave never to find that spot on the ocean floor again. The sound of the crested wave crashes toward me, and I stand still, arms outstretched, legs locked, awaiting the connection of body of water and body of soul.

I’m unprepared for the fullness of the tumult, but my feet stand firm, refusing my knees the freedom to buckle. As the wave pushes me forward I find the strength to push back, against it’s current, against the pull to push me forward and back toward the shoreline I worked hard to get past. I close my eyes as the wave personified fist pummels my back, challenging my position, doing it’s best to defy my resolve.

If I’m honest, it hurts.

I think within my mind that is made of mere common sense that I could be safely on the shore riding this wave instead of fighting it, but the Voice that echoes peaceful “stand still” assures my mind that isn’t bound by fear that the best is yet to come.

All at once the wave breaks completely, stillness once again flows, and shaking the wet assault from my hair and face, I open my eyes. The sun still shines bright, the advance of the Oceans arms around me never blocked it’s rays, only my feeling of them, and the Voice that held me firm, beckons, “Deeper.” And I find my footing gained and take a step forward before the next strong current has me again longing to run back to shore. Because though the shore may be safe, life is found in the wrestle with the waves.

Psalm 93:3-4
“The floods have lifted up, O Lord, the floods have lifted up their voice; the floods lift up their roaring. Mightier than the thunders of many waters, mightier than the waves of the sea, the Lord on high is mighty!”

Life is loss.

Image

In Ann Voskamp’s book “One Thousand Gifts” this is her admission, her announcement, her proclamation. Life is loss… when, what, who will you lose? It’s not a matter of will I lose, but solely when will I lose.

Continue reading

A Missing Missive

20140311-112733.jpg

Graham Cooke said that “God doesn’t focus on what is wrong with us, rather, He is attending to what is missing.

My daughter wants to be a cheerleader. This is a pretty tall order – Not because she isn’t capable but because she is missing some key components in order to do so. As a parent I have a choice – point out what is wrong with her… Or attend to what is missing.

If I choose to point out what is wrong with her, I will very likely crush her spirit. But, if I choose to attend to those missing key components, not only is she capable to live her dream, but she will become confident and strong not only to fulfill that purpose but the passions that inspire her later.

And isn’t that what God is about? With our acceptance of Christ and the knowledge of Him removing the blot of sin and the punishment it affords, what good does it do for God to point out what is wrong with us? Instead He is better served (and I mean that in the very literal expression of that word) by pointing out what is missing and what He provides, what He has already provided!

This is what I see. We are too sin conscious. This serves one purpose, the purpose of the law, to point out our failures and precipitate the exhausting effort of keeping up with holiness. This mindset leaves us feeling defeated and undeserving, which has the eventual effect of crippling our service as Ambassadors of Christ. We will never measure up.

This is what I believe. If we paid less attention to what we were doing wrong or right and more attention to what is missing from our lives, keeping us from dwelling in His fullness, and seeking God for that supply, we will become more holy. The end that we seek through the means of performance is fully met in the knowledge of who we are in Christ!

Let me step back a minute. The key there is “who we are in Christ.” Without Christ we are still stained with sin and our punishment is death. It doesn’t sound nice. We don’t like to hear that some are excepted, but it’s the Truth. Jesus said “I am the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father but by Me.” Without our acceptance of Christ as our Savior, we are still marked by death. His blood and resurrection is what changes who we are to what we are meant to be. Those who are without Christ are judged by what is wrong AND by what they are missing. But, at any moment, in understanding and humility, they can change all of that!

That being said, as we are reborn in Christ, we are equipped for everything our life in Him requires. God isn’t a task master, He is the giver of all good things. He will never ask something of us that He hasn’t already given us in advance. So, He gave us Jesus to take away what was wrong, and now He reminds us that what we are still missing He has already given us in vast supply!

Even if we feel guilty, God is greater than our feelings, and he knows everything. Dear friends, if we don’t feel guilty, we can come to God with bold confidence. And we will receive from him whatever we ask because we obey him and do the things that please him.” (1 John 3:20-22 NLT)

I think a big reason people refuse to come to Christ or believe in God is because they fear what He will do, and that is because they do not know Who He is. I think of Jesus telling the parable of the talents. Why didn’t the guy with the one talent do anything with it? He says “I knew you were a hard Master…” The word “knew” is more like “convinced.” When we are convinced God is one way, heaping shame and guilt upon us and seeing us as infidels never able to measure up, if we perceive Him as hard and cruel and unyielding, if we see Him as vengeful and punishing, that’s how we will respond to Him… In fear, not reverence, in hatred instead of love.

How do I know? Well, I’ve seen it, and it breaks my heart that someone cannot see my Father and Saviour as accessible and grateful and merciful and loving. Secondly, I’ve experienced it. If I came down on my daughter and told her she wouldn’t measure up and that she should just forget ever pursuing her dream, she would think me mean and cruel, and I would be. But, when I lovingly instruct her in what it takes to do what she desires and we take the time to help her make those changes, no doubt she might not like me at first because I’m asking her to change her sedentary ways, but in the end through her perseverance and my support and love and encouragement, she will realize that she is free to be more by replacing her doubt with confidence.

God wants to do the same. He wants us to see our relationship like the latter example rather than the first, but too often we see changing our ways as punishment rather than transformation and being led as brain-washed rather than walking in freedom from guilt and shame.

My daughter may never be a cheerleader, but she is learning new habits and a mindset that will set her up for greater things to come! And I know God is doing the same with me – little by little, day by day, pointing out that in fully abiding in Him I am found whole!

If the shoe fits…

Dreams.

They hold so much meaning, and God-given dreams have the power to impart knowledge, wisdom, and determination where you might otherwise be lacking. There are a few dreams I have had in my life that have in seasons sustained me, but the most remarkable one, the loudest speaking, the most powerfully compelling one I feel the need to share.

As I opened my eyes to a sun washed yellow morning, the bed seemed crisp and cozy. I liked it there, it was where I wanted to stay, covers over my head, snuggled into a pillow, blanketed in peace. But something urged me to sit up, so I stretched and smiled and let my legs dangle to the side of my bed. Immediately, I saw them. Big black men’s shoes several sizes too large. I was confused. A Father figure stood beside me beckoning me to put them on.

“No.” I didn’t actually say it, but my body language communicated it.
Silently, I argued and pointed dramatically, “Do you see the size of those?!”

He merely smiled and with gentle authority pointed towards the shoes.
I looked at the shoe and pulled up my foot, inspecting the difference in size, thinking to perhaps show Him that there was no way my small foot would fit. He wouldn’t have any of it. He coaxed me off the bed and onto the floor. I stood still, frozen, staunchly unmoving. He wasn’t deterred, nor did He wait. He placed me in the shoes. I looked back at Him helpless, watching how the shoes engulfed my foot. Not only did they not fit, I could have fit a whole shoe-clad foot inside them!

“Walk.”

Did I hear Him correctly? He pointed ahead of me and urged me forward.

“But, I’m gonna stumble! I’m gonna fall! I’ll walk right out of the shoes! They do not fit!” I was crying and pleading, I could not do this thing!

“Walk it out until they fit.”

Those words encouraged me. Something broke within my spirit and I found myself moving forward. He walked behind me and assisted me each time I stumbled and fell and all the while encouraged me onwards.

That seems crazy huh? That we could actually walk something into fitting us? But, there are things in my life that I have been led to do that just don’t fit. They don’t feel right, they aren’t looked at favorably, and they just leave me scrambling for that big, sun-soaked bed.
And I’ve been tempted to throw the shoes off, move away from anything resembling a life-form to an island where I can declare a law which states, “No shoes allowed!” Only, I can’t. Because the minute I reach down to release myself from their burdensome awkwardness, His gentle voice speaks, “Walk it out until they fit.”

“But you don’t understand!” I wail. “They look at me, they don’t like my shoes, and question where I bought them or if I should wear them at all! And they have another pair, they say they are the ones You intended for me, and the thing is, Daddy, they fit!”

He is silent.

“Wouldn’t it be easier, Daddy? To wear the shoes they have? Wouldn’t it be easier, more comfortable to just put these clodhoppers in the closet and run instead of stumble all the stinkin’ time!”

Then He speaks, “Easier? Yes. Comfortable? Yes. Would it make them happier with you, less unsure of Me in you? More favorable toward you and My work through you? Yes. But, will it strengthen you? Will you trust me as much? Would your faith believe the impossible and your heart hear My voice beyond the noise? Would you be empowered to stand for Me against the flow no matter how the great the cost? No.”

“So what You’re saying is…?”

“Walk it out.” Oh, that smile. Oh, that overwhelming peace that outdoes the purest yellow light of any sun-washed room! Oh, that loving glint in His eyes that undoes every fear in me.

Maybe this is you… Maybe the shoes He has for you are a little clunky, or maybe they are tight and uncomfortable and need some breaking in? This I know, you alone know the path He’s asked you to walk, and in the end, it isn’t about what others thought or what they believed, it is completely about your obedience – to the hardship, to the pain, or to the rejection. Allegiance requires big steps, unashamed trust, and a heart that only needs One yes.

So, if you see me stumbling a little, wearing shoes that aren’t trendy or anything YOU would ever wear, understand that you aren’t meant to, because I’m wearing the footwear my Daddy picked especially for me!

20130909-102029.jpg