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.

The Siren’s Song

There’s a pain, a numbness, a vacancy left inside one who is molested. It doesn’t matter so much the degree to misuse or abuse… The hole presses in with the smallest infraction. There’s a shame that comes with the wounds made then that make the scar now that much more noticeable – a guilt that […]

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

Embrace Grace

Grace.

It’s hard for us to fathom… Something for nothing? There is always a catch. We look for the catch – surely I must do something to gain this great reward? So we involve ourselves with works, to be better, to be acceptable, to be worthy of a gift we are completely unworthy to receive. Then faith becomes about what we do rather than who we are, and relationship becomes about us pleasing God rather than being pleased by Him. We somehow forsake the gift in an attempt to earn what is freely given. We are quick to point out the hypocrites and Pharisees without seeing we often play their roles.

I will never forget the time I was so distraught and discouraged because someone that I loved and I had invested in heart and soul returned to a life of sin and depravity. I beat my chest and yelled for God to tell me why? Why was I working so hard to make a difference, why was all that time and energy just thrown away in a fit of passion and recklessness? I didn’t dishonor Him with my frustration, but I felt surely He must be just as frustrated as I felt! Then I heard these words, “You are not called to be the Holy Spirit.”

I stopped. I sat. I pondered. I meditated on that thought.

That’s what I expected. I expected that my good works and words would transform her life and when they didn’t, I felt I had failed. The Truth rushed into my heart like a whisper of correction, “You can’t change them. You can’t save them. Point them to My perfect grace and let Me wrestle with them through their salvation.”

Wow.

The truth was I had seen her as a project, and when I saw successes I marked her off my to do list and went on to the next project. I think we are guilty of thinking God does the same, and we would be wrong. People aren’t projects, they are souls that are in a process of salvation… And what happens on that journey isn’t about instant purification but enduring sanctification. It’s about the battles, the scars, and the long suffering patience of a Savior.

Faith is a journey defined by grace. None of us can ever earn what we have been given. Too often we picture God and think like the days of Moses, “I cannot look upon you and live.” This is not the God that Jesus introduced to us, a God intolerant of imperfection, but instead He sat in the midst of them telling them stories of forgiveness and grace. Not only that, it’s not the God that I truthfully see through His Word.

I see a God more like Job. Have you read the first chapter of that book? I have too, a few times and yet last night for the first time Daddy God highlighted a verse I hadn’t seen before:

When these celebrations ended—sometimes after several days—Job would purify his children. He would get up early in the morning and offer a burnt offering for each of them. For Job said to himself, “Perhaps my children have sinned and have cursed God in their hearts.” This was Job’s regular practice. (Job 1:5 NLT)

That’s the heart of a Father that loves beyond failure. The difference is, unlike Job, God knows what we have done and how we have failed, and He didn’t have to make sacrifice a daily practice – Jesus met that requirement once and for all.

Let’s not gloss over the investment in that burnt offering. Job’s kids were partiers, they had feasts and drunken social gatherings on their father’s dime. We might picture Job as taking an animal to the temple leaving it there and going about his merry way… He had 7 kids so, okay, he deposited a flock at the priests door and left. No. One by one Job would take each animal to the threshold of the temple and lay his hand upon its head to symbolize transference and then he would kill this perfect specimen to be offered up to the priests as atonement. He did this 7 times with 7 animals 7 days a week. That’s the devotion of a father who cares, who desires to see his children safe, and is willing to pay a great cost to see them free from sin.

That’s such a beautiful picture of our Father’s love. Job’s kids aren’t recorded as requesting this… They aren’t depicted as even knowing anything about it. They didn’t earn the honor of sacrifice, but because Job loved them so much, he paid the price, over and over and over again – the patient concern of a loving Father.

Grace.

We can’t explain it. We can’t earn it. We can’t fathom love so deep, so unconditional, so sacrificial, and when we try and work to make it ours we neglect the beauty of the gift.

If He loved us so much and extended enduring grace to us, a flawed and desperate people, how can we expect perfection of others? Better yet. Why do we expect perfection of ourselves? Faith is a journey defined by grace. Embrace that.

20131202-134417.jpg

School Daze

Like most parents in The South, last week my kids went back to school. My youngest began her last year of elementary school (I cannot truly be this old!) and my oldest began her seventh grade year. It seems like yesterday I held her in my arms for the first time in relief that the nausea and vomiting of the last 9 months was over and the fun had begun! What I didn’t realize was that it wasn’t the pain of contractions, the pushing or the final clip of the umbilical cord that marked the end if labor… It was only the beginning.

I remember gently rubbing my bulging belly and hurrying the day when she would arrive – to see her face, to count her fingers, to watch her breathe and not just feel her move. I rushed those months in between trips to the porcelain throne to pray. When I started with contractions early, I obediently followed the doctors orders that I rest, stay off my feet, pretty much just get up to go to the bathroom. “Rest,” he said, “and don’t worry… You’ve have plenty of time to worry after she is born.”

I don’t think I really paid attention to that comment until the first night we were home, and her sleeping was so quiet I had to watch her back to make sure she was still breathing. Or the first time I heard her choke and cried for 30 minutes thinking of what might have happened if I hadn’t been there. The night she stuck a crayon up her nasal cavity, I envisioned how we would explain the bulge in her nose when she was older because that baby wasn’t going to let me help her get it out! Or the time she was playing with her daddy’s pocket knife and sliced her finger… That first sight of blood, from an injury… I thought I would faint – not from the sight of blood but from the knowledge that I hadn’t been attentive enough, I hadn’t guarded her enough and she was hurt because of my neglect.

I thought those were the rough days, until we experienced loss of friendship, abandonment, bullying, and heartache and disappointment, and those days have just begun, and I find myself wanting to scoop her up, open my womb again and tuck her back in… Safely, because the world is just too unpredictable and I can’t guard her from the perils or the problems.

But in those moments, I have to take a deep breath. I have to remember the words of Daddy God to me in some of those fearful moments when she was a baby, “Where your eyes cannot see, Mine keep watch. Where your hand fails to reach, Mine never leaves.” Those have been His words of comfort to me for years, and I cling to them!

Not just for my babies… But for myself. Life is unpredictable and full of uncertainties. Just when we think we have it figured out, everything changes. I once heard, “The only thing that never changes is that things always change.” It’s true. The more I live and experience and gain and lose the more this simple silly quote makes a world of sense.

Truth be told, I hate it. It leaves me dazed. I can adjust, but I don’t want to. It’s like this common thread in my life that screams, “Don’t get comfortable, it won’t be this way for long.” And still, like a fool, like a naive child, I forget and I allow myself to dream and believe only to watch it all change, again.

In those moments, just like with my baby girls, I have only One constant. One voice that can soothe me and remind me that where I cannot see, He has already charted a path, and where my hand is unable to reach, His is already there. And, I rely on that. I cling to it! Because as much as I’d like to build a cocoon around us and stay there safely tucked beside my Saviour’s breast sheltered and safe, life requires me to live apart from that haven for now to face and walk among the hurting, dying, and broken that might not understand a parent’s heart, that may have never felt protected, appreciated, encouraged, or loved. He requires of me to die today so I might live with Him forever, and that is anything but comfortable! But, I have a choice I can learn or I can sleep. I can roll back over making my own cocoon of comfort and denial and pretend like the Teacher isn’t calling my name, or I can sit at a desk right up front, pencil in hand ready to take notes, and learn all I can.

School is back in session, and I’m still a student.

The Elected

Today is the day after the vote, and nothing has changed.

This doesn’t surprise me.

I was talking to God about this, and He reminded me of this verse:
“Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14)

God did not say:
“…If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and select them a new governmental leader to restore their land.”

And yet, that is what we believe. We believe that if we seek and pray He will appoint someone else to do the work. This has never been so, and will never be. The truth is we aren’t comfortable with the idea that He has appointed us. We often look for ways out of our appointments.

We are burdened for a need in our lives or in another’s and so we beg off prayer. Pray for me, pray for this, pray over them… I am guilty. This takes the responsibility off of us. This allows us to look to other things, when obviously God has called our attention to those things.

We are tired of abortion and the taking of innocent lives in heinous and barbaric ways. But, are we supporting organizations that vehemently oppose those acts and reach out instead to help the mother understand the value of the life she carries inside?

We hate to see the impoverished; in fact, so much so that we struggle to call them poor. We make comments about laziness and living off the government, but are we lending them a helping hand? Are we showing them theimportance of work and allowing them the opportunity to serve?

I could go on and on…this list could be never ending. But, I am not here to point out what’s wrong with us. I want us to see what is right with us! What God purposes us to do, regardless of who is in charge.

Isaiah 63:1-2 says: “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me, for the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted and to proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed. He has sent me to tell those who mourn that the time of the Lord’s favor has come, and with it, the day of God’s anger against their enemies.”

That same Spirit that anointed Jesus is on His elect. We who are His are ambassadors, and as ambassadors we are chosen to continue the work that He started. That is good news!

As long as I have been praying and seeking God, this is what I have found – Prayer is the exercise of faith…the results are born in our hearts, out of that obedience. So as we pray we must remember that just as Christ declared as He took the stand before the people to announce His election, we too are called to do those same three things:

Bring good news to the poor – What is that good news? It is good news that the impoverished in Spirit don’t have to remain that way. Through Christ they are offered abundant life…That Christ’s economy isn’t based on the economy of man. That what they lack others have, and it is our responsibility to freely share.

Comfort the broken hearted – There are many of these, daily they grow. We aren’t called to stand on a soapbox and declare all the wrong things they’ve done to get there, we are called to sincerely comfort them, aid them in their suffering, and offer hope and life.

Proclaim freedom for the captives and release for the prisoners – We all can feel the chains or cage of some prison. Whether it is a literal holding cell or one of the mind and heart or the limitations of thebody. We all have the propensity to be captured by something. But, God says we have freedom through Christ! We must proclaim that.

Our circumstances may never change…in fact, they could get a lot worse. But, as Christians our election is sure! We know what we have been called to do and what it will take to heal our land…and it isn’t the promise of a Christ-friendly government. It is the promise of an abundant life in Christ…one that doesn’t look around for what we can get, but looks earnestly and urgently for what we can give.

The greatest empires always tumbled. The powers that be are now the powers that were. Nations have fallen, and wars have always been tragic. But, this election that we have isn’t about the “State of Affairs” it is about the affairs of the heart, it’s not a proclamation of the “State of the Union” but about the state of being unified. This is a Spiritual election that refuses to sit idly by and pray for others to do the work, but it is an anointing that says, “You are the one that I have chosen. Be my ambassador.”

In the end, it isn’t about who is elected. It is about what we elect to do.

Today is the day after the vote, and in my spirit, something is changing.

20121107-142502.jpg