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 🙂

Selfless Challenge – Week One

Any time you take up a challenge to reflect more of the heart and love of God, the enemy rushes in with arrow pointed, ready to aim. The very day I issued that challenge to myself, was possibly one of the hardest days I have had in a long time. I was physically ill and emotionally drained and no matter what help I needed from those around me, I wasn’t getting it. Their actions seemed to say. “You don’t matter.”

I refused to have a pity party because after all that would be selfish…and I was doing my best to keep from that. But, I talked to God a lot, asking how I might turn my feelings around into something selfless for someone else. Only, my motivation seemed more out of spite than love, and thus, the wicked cycle of selfishness hit my heavy heart again. I cried out to Him, “This is hard!”

And, I realized. It isn’t for Him. He is in His very nature selfless love. For Him to give it all for us is His joy not His challenge. The challenge resided in my flesh not my spirit. I had to control my flesh. Not an easy thing to do. In fact, it’s a very hard thing to do. But, He was there…selflessly loving me through each step of painful reflection.

We are selfish.

It’s killing us.

Our families.

Our marriages.

The root of every divide lies in the “me first” mentality. And we might see this, maybe silently admit this to ourselves…but we don’t change it. Honestly? – Because we don’t want to. We say “I love you..” but what remains unspoken is “..when you do this… while you act like that…because I need something… that’s what I’m supposed to say… if I’m happy.”

I have always hated the saying “You wanna have your cake and eat it, too!” Well heck yeah…how are we gonna enjoy it if we don’t eat it!? But when we love selfishly it’s a pathetic picture…(You English buffs will relate) It’s Miss Haversham in her molded wedding dress sitting at a lavishly spoiled wedding table. The feast is there…but in our desire to please our selves and what we want, we guard it and mourn it at times, but never eat it. Love lived selflessly doesn’t sit at that table, but stands behind it offering slice after slice and taking a bite here and there, smearing your cheeks with icing and offering extra servings. And guess what…? Love like that doesn’t run out, and it doesn’t feel like a chore and it doesn’t drain you. In fact, it fills you as you fill others.

I guess the challenge in selflessness this week has become, “True love can’t be selfish.” By definition it is not. So how do we show true love? What does that look like? I’ve gotten some glimpses. How about you?

20120827-174656.jpg