Thursday, July 28, 2011

Last night was an awesome storm. The rain came down in torrents leaving 5 inches of water in some places. We once lived where rain is scarce so this kind of rain brings out the celebration in my kids (and me). Though now in their 20's they couldn't help but skip in the puddles and dance in the rain. I wanted to-- much more than I did but somewhere off in the close distance was lightning and thunder. I was taught to respect the power and dangers of a storm. It wasn't safe... but then... is anything safe? Are we meant to stay safe? Or are we meant to celebrate? It's confusing for me. I have been so trained to be safe and as a mom I have worked hard to keep my children safe but somehow they have learned a balance between being safe and living life. Perhaps that is part of being like little children that Jesus calls us to?

Monday, July 25, 2011

The hand of Blessing

It's amazing what we can accomplish when the LORD is on our side! Living out that thing that God created us for is awesome. It's like riding the very top of the wave. It's a rush. It's just plain cool! I love it. There have been times in my life when I could take any blow, survive any trial, because I know I am right where I am supposed to be, right here, right now. There is a blessing in this place that makes all things doable-- or at least tolerable.

But then there are times when nothing goes right. No matter how hard I try to accomplish good things, frustration is the only reward. At times like these I start to wonder if I really heard God at all or if I went off into left field... again. It's a place of darkness and it leaves me feeling lost and alone. It feels like that blessing is fickle and frail.

I'm thinking of Colossians 3:15 where it says, "let the peace of God rule in your hearts." That peace has a message. The word "rule" in that passage is like the umpire in a game who rules what is "safe" and what is "out". I believe that there are times when God removes his hand of blessing to ready us for new beginnings. It is not that He abandons us to our struggle but who would make a change if things were comfortable the way they are? I believe that God removes his hand of blessing just before He delivers our next assignment.

It opens our ears to hear and our hearts to obey with out hesitation.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Wedding Shower Devo

Some of you requested a copy of this talk so here it is in cyber form :D

A---, I am so impressed with you and J----- and your relationship. You have such a passion for the LORD and your desire to serve Him is obviously number one in your lives. That right there will make all the difference in your marriage. I know you will do well.

K--- and I have been married for 32 years and 5 days. It has been the best hmmm about 25 years of our lives. We have had many unique experiences. Oh I could tell you stories! In many ways marriage to K----, an engineer with a true eye for adventure has been a stretch for me but I can truly say that K---- is delightful and I am glad I married him.

I say it’s been the best 25 years of our lives because there were a few years mixed in that I wouldn’t wish on anyone. We have been wealthy, we have been homeless we have been each other’s best friends and we have hurt each other so severely that we have seriously considered separation & divorce. We both came into our marriage with baggage. Everybody does. Sometimes I wonder what relationship would be like without baggage… (I guess that’s why Jesus came).

Marriage is a covenant commitment. It is a commitment to help each other into a life of ever increasing grace and holiness. Remember that when your dreams are shattered, your bills are overwhelming and your babies are screaming. Marriage is not about the day to day routines. It’s about chasing after the more in life with ever increasing passion!

If I had one piece of advice for anyone getting married it would be this, master the art of grace. Grace is not just what you do it is how you think. Remember Romans 8:1 “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus” It’s not just that God doesn’t speak condemnation to us. Condemnation isn’t in His heart towards us.

Psalms 103:11-14 says, “For as the heavens are high above the earth,
So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him;
As far as the east is from the west,
So far has He removed our transgressions from us.
As a father pities his children,
So the LORD pities those who fear Him.
For He knows our frame;
He remembers that we are dust.

We are dust. We make mistakes. We are dust. In our life time we will make some really horrible, life altering mistakes. Sometimes God will rescue us from the consequences of our mistakes and sometimes He will let consequences smack us in the face and though the mistake may be one person’s choice, both partners will bear the brunt of the consequences.

Mostly because of our baggage, both K---- and I have made some really bad mistakes during our marriage and the consequences of those mistakes have been hard to bear. I don’t think there is anything harder to navigate in marriage than the pain and embarrassment of the consequences of the financial, social, moral, spiritual or just plain stupid mistakes of our marriage partners. Mistakes don’t mean anyone failed. They simply let us know that we are dust. God and God alone makes that dust into somebody unique and special.

Allow for dust. Make a commitment now to allow for mistakes. God knows our frame and remembers that we are dust. You will save yourself a lot of heartache if you remember the same. Make a place of safety with each other where you can confess your deepest faults knowing there is no condemnation with each other as well as with the Lord. Be willing to forgive any violation. Walk in open redemption with each other, and…almost equally important… get a sense of humor. Stupid mistakes over time will often turn into funny stories if we let our pride go and get dusty.

Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.

It’s easy as you are starting on this road to see the good in J---- now. But there will be days when you wonder if the man you married is still in there somewhere. He may wonder too. Make a choice to remember, meditate on the good and praiseworthy. Proclaim who you know J---- to be. Write it down now while it’s fresh in your mind and when he does something stupid (which we all do) tenaciously cling to who you know God made him to be. Be an ambassador of reconciliation. Stand up for his redemption. And may he do the same for you.

1 Corinthians 13:7 says, “Love bears up under anything and everything that comes, is ever ready to believe the best of every person, its hopes are fadeless under all circumstances, and it endures everything [without weakening].” (AMP) That sounds impossible doesn’t it? But when our partners are floundering it is crucial to know that somewhere in there they are the same wonderful, loving person you married. The gift we can give to each other in marriage is the calling out to who God created us to be when we least look like it.

That’s not to say you are meant to put up with wrong choices or hurtful behavior. Sometimes it’s important to have a fire spitting, knock down, drag out fight.

We have been instructed to put on the whole armor of God for the purpose of opposing evil. Opposing evil in our marriage is vital. But always remember what you are fighting for, that being a life of ever increasing grace and holiness.

Fight for each other not against each other. Some things aren’t important. Some things are more important than they seem. How you get toothpaste out of a tube isn’t important. If you disagree on this topic get two tubes of toothpaste. But there may be more to the toothpaste tube fight than meets the eye. Perhaps one of you is a person of order and one a person of spontaneity. Perhaps one needs bathroom drawers to feel ordered because it is a part of their gifting to bring things that are out of order into order. In that case it might be important for a spontaneous person to honor the need for order, while it would also be important for an ordered person to honor spontaneous expressions.

Speaking of fighting, It’s dang important to learn how to fight fair. I think that lesson takes a life time but here are 5 principles to get you started.

  1. Invite Jesus into your conflicts. Listen to each other then together listen to God let the Holy Spirit guide you into all truth about what you are fighting about.
  2. Own your own stuff first. There is no place for pride in an argument. James 15:16 says, “Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” Notice that the same people that are confessing trespasses are also the righteous whose prayers are effective.
  3. Fight to understand-- not to be understood. Winning is when you both have a greater understanding of each other. Don’t stop fighting until both of you win.
  4. Use “I feel” statements rather than “You” statements. It’s important to fight from a position of vulnerability rather than power. If you say, “I feel hurt when X happens, it makes me feel disrespected.” You are expressing a piece of your heart and offering relationship. If you say, “You don’t respect me!” you are speaking the words of our enemy the accuser and it will destroy your relationship. Accusations are a wedge that separate people. You can not be in intimate relationship with someone who stands as your accuser. Remember Romans 8 there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. I can’t stress it enough, accusations are poison to any relationship. As soon as an accusation is spoken, relationship is broken and it can not be repaired until you put the accusation down.
  5. Remember your ultimate goal, that being to help each other into a life of ever increasing grace and holiness. Even when you fight, believe the best in each other. Remember who your partner is in Christ and speak to them in that context. Fighting teaches us to live in accurate service of one another. It’s a good thing.
It will be exciting to see where God takes you as you learn to serve Him as a mighty, ministry team. I believe with all my heart that He has great things in store for your lives. Seize every opportunity. Today there is so much to hope. The two of you together aspire to do great things. And in Christ great things will be accomplished.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Hidden contempt

Philippians 4:8 says, " Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things." This passage to me is grace. If you want to live graciously, do this. It's not what you do on the outside, it is what you dwell on in your mind. What it your focus? When you look at a white piece of paper with a smudge on it do you see the smudge or the white? How do you look at people. Do you dwell on the smudge or the white?

I so long to be gracious. I am the kind of person that sort of parts the seas. You either like me, or you hate me. There is no middle ground. I don't seem to swim with the pack. I am different. I am sort of artsy fartsy, flighty and strange. My thoughts run deep or maybe just in a whole different track. In either case, I don't know how to do small talk. I try, I really try but it's like speaking a foreign language.

I say all that because I have observed it. I know it's true, but at the depths of "me" I like who I am. I don't want to make myself different to be acceptable. I want people to enjoy me because I'm me. I want people to wink at my mistakes because, hey, we all make them.

Jesus says in Matthew 7:12, "whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them," I want people to be gracious towards me. It hurts me deeply when I befriend someone only to find out later that inside their heads they have dwelt on my faults instead of those traits listed in Philippians 4. Hidden contempt hurts me deeply. I get fooled sometimes when people "act" gracious but on the inside they are not. Eventually it comes out. Luke 6:45 "For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks." I am often leveled by the shock of their contempt when it finally does come out. Contempt is a tool of the enemy. If Philippians 4:8 is good, then contempt is evil.

I don't always remember that I'm flirting with evil when I am dwelling on the faults of others but the evil is obvious to me when someone is dwelling on my faults. It is like a knife that cuts to the deepest part of me. Often those fiery darts talked about in Ephesians 6:16 come in the form of the contempt of another as they spew hurtful words and judgments towards me.

So it's become a battle, good against evil. Grace vs contempt. The biggest blow I can make against the enemy is to walk in grace. To dwell in grace. To dwell on what is noble, pure and lovely. I don't believe that grace is naive. Jesus didn't put up with evil. But He was also full of grace.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Carmagedon or the lack there of

I find it amazing what people can accomplish when we work together. I'm thinking of so many things that were built before we had "modern" machinery. Like the Eiffel Tower, the Panama Canal, the pyramids. We have build grand ships that sailed across the Atlantic centuries ago. We are capable of so much as people when we work together. I'm thinking of the fears LA had of Carmagedon. The biggest traffic jam ever in the US. But everyone worked together and the streets were more than manageable. My question is, what would happen if we worked together to clear the roads everyday? What if all of us cared about the starving in Africa. What if we all did something about it all at the same time? What are we capable of if we all came together and did it?

The thing is, we are also capable of horrific evil if we band together for an evil cause. Take for instance the reign of Hitler or the 9/11 terrorist attack. I'm thinking of what God said as the people were building the tower of Babel in Genesis 11, " But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. And the LORD said, “Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them. Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.” It makes me wonder what the problem was. What did God see as dangerous? (listening) This one thing comes to mind. The tower had people working together for an uninspired and therefore ungodly cause. At the base of it's inspiration was fear and fear is at odds with Love.

I don't believe that fear is an emotion. Sometimes there is respect, like I respect a snake that is close enough to bite me. My respect of the snake causes me to step back and give it room. Or I respect the danger of heights. But fear, the kind of fear that motivates us to make poor choices is a spirit. Romans 8:15 says, :For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” What is "the spirit of bondage again to fear"? Fear is the enemy. The motivation of evil comes from fear. It's what drives us into terrible things and it's what drives us away from amazing good.

We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13). We could clear the streets of Los Angeles. We could feed the millions or stop the slave trade. It boil down to who is inspiring us.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Setting the record straight about women caught in domestic violence

My ministry often has me working with women in violent marriages. People ask me all the time, "Why doesn't she leave?" It's good question I suppose, but it makes my skin crawl most of the time because the question is asked in frustration, with a kind of arrogant contempt for the poor woman involved. I'd like to take a minute to set the record straight.

First, it is important to know that a woman may be staying because it's the safest choice for her and her children. That may seem like a contradiction but it is statistically true. Women have a 50 percent greater survival rate staying in a violent marriage than leaving a violent marriage.

A woman who stays in a hurtful marriage, stays because she is a woman of integrity. She made a vow and she meant it. She loves her children and wants to protect them. She works hard to love her husband and to fix what is broken in her marriage. Divorce carries with it a deep sense of failure for any woman of integrity no matter what brought her to that choice.

There is more to the story. We were never created to experience evil. This world full of violence we live in was not God's original intent for us. But at the same time knowing what we would do with our free will, God build into us the ability to survive terrible pain. Our brains include a mechanism that "forgets" trauma. Whether it is the pain and chaos of a car accident, the birth of a child or violence in the home, our brains will help us cope by minimizing our experiential understanding of the pain. That gives us the ability to drive again, it sets the stage for siblings, but it also makes the violence in domestic violence get lost in the fog.

If you want to help, start by understanding the complexity of this woman's dilemma. Love her with no expectations. Give up on the idea that you know better or would make better choices and simply offer comfort and support. If you know a woman in a violent marriage, please, respect her integrity, pray for her safety, respect the love she has for her husband and let her know she has a choice to stay or to go and that she is loved no matter what she chooses.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Pain and Vulnerability

Relationships are a struggle aren't they? Sometimes I think it would be so much easier if I ran away. I'm thinking of a song John Travolta sings (written by Paul Williams) "What would they say if we up and ran away from all the roaring crowds and the downtown city faces? Would they carry on and on when they found that we were gone or would they let us go?" It is impossible to be an island. We can't live life in a vacuum but at the same time people are fickle. You can't trust them, well-- you can only trust them as far as they serve the LORD. So how do you engage people and remain safe?

My answer? You can't. I remember a saying I had on my wall as a child, "A ship in the harbor is safe, but that is not what a ship is made for." That's so true. We were created for adventure! Adventure is fun and exciting but it is also dangerous, dangerous meaning unsafe. As Christ so amazingly illustrated you could get killed being a Christian. And I would wager to say that if we are not taking risks, we are not living.

I'm not so much afraid of death though. I'm more afraid of life. I'm afraid of the pain that life can bring. I fear people and their contempt. I am not like freaking out terrified. I'm just being honest here. Who isn't afraid of people? How about you, are you totally without the fear of people?

Contempt sometimes levels me and leaves me floundering. I wonder why. What's the deal with that God? (listening) wow, God always puts a new twist on things. The sense I have is that it matters be cause people matter to me. I care. That's true. So to some degree, the more I love people, the more vulnerable I am. Hmmm. I'm thinking of 1 John 4:7 which says, "Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God." So, is God calling us out to be vulnerable? And if so does He also call us to hurt? I'm not sure He calls us to hurt but He does seem to promise pain. John 15:20 says, "Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also."

I think all that is true. But the thing is someone has to start somewhere risking and being vulnerable. If we are ever going to be a people know by our love we must also be known by our risky lifestyle. We would have to peal off that hard layer and learn to be soft and safe. Wouldn't we?

Any thoughts?

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Chaos, satan, what's the difference?

I'm thinking of 1 Peter 5:8 which says, "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour." in terms of chaos. I keep trying to conquer chaos and it keeps conquering me. Grrr! I feel stalked by clutter, assaulted with junk mail and smothered in things that are left undone. What's the deal with that God? (listening) Wow, I had a sense that I can't see the damage done to enemy lines. I have a picture of a Roman army, lines and lines of soldiers when you take down one of them the man behind fills his place so that you don't see the losses. The grown taken is only seen at the back of the line. I AM taking ground it just doesn't look that way. Cool!

That's a cool picture for me of spiritual battles. Sometimes I get weary in the war. The attack seems endless and the enemy line just keeps coming and coming. The Romans fought in lines. Rows and rows of soldiers would simply march straight into a battle and overwhelm the enemy by sheer numbers. When one line of soldiers fell in battle the next line stepped up fresh and ready to take on warriors that had exhausted themselves in the last fight. Ugh! (Our wars now are so tidy in comparison... I'm not sure that is a good thing.) It's a cool picture that the lines are getting shorter and progress is being made but it's still overwhelming. Lord, how can we ever win when there are so many rows of attacking forces? I'm exhausted and the chaos is so toxic to me! (listening) Hmmm, the sense I have again is that I am winning.

I have a picture of the propaganda wars that go on where NATO drops fliers from airplanes into the crowd of enemy troops saying, "You don't have a chance, surrender now and you will be well cared for" I hear the enemy saying you can't do this, it is beyond you the chaos is too huge. But I hear God saying, "just stick it out your almost there" Much different message, one full of fear and the other full of hope. I guess today I will chose hope.

So God, what do I do today to win? (listening) I hear, take one room at a time eliminate clutter and add white space. Ok I can do one room today.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Boundaries ugh!

Today was a war. I spent much of the day in battle in prayer. Sometimes life feels like playing chess... We have a crafty enemy who knows what every piece is capable of. Sometimes it's hard to know the best move and so much is at stake.

The name of the game today was Boundaries. Boundaries are the things that define where I end and you begin. Boundaries are a huge part of grace. Boundaries are the gift of respect and honor. If I have good boundaries, I will see you... really see you. Because you are far enough apart from me that I can see the difference. If I don't have good boundaries you will be so buried in me that I won't see you at all.

All that said, Holding boundaries is exhausting, and lonely and I am tired. I feel like a piece of swiss cheese. Yes, I stood up to the onslaught of boundary crushing shrapnel that came careening in my direction today, but not without some bloody wounds. I can relate to the picture Paul paints in Ephesians 6:16 "above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one." I wonder exactly what that looks like. What kind of faith quenches what kind of darts? Having my boundaries crossed feels like daggers to me. God I'm not so sure how faith can shield me from that. (listening) The picture I have is of being faithful to God in keeping His place His. His place in my life and His place in yours. Hmmm that makes sense.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Grace and boldness

Sometimes it seems like the only time I can be bold is when I am angry. I can stick up for myself well enough. But I'm not always kind. I want to be bold in being kind and full of grace. There are many times in scripture where Jesus stood up for the least noticed, the dirty and disadvantaged. I'm thinking of the call girl who cried and washed Jesus' feet with her tears. (Luke 7:3-50) Or the Man who was born blind (John 9). I want to see past the lies that puff us up and see the innocent outside of my own fears. Boldness, I think I have mistaken boldness for bulldozing or being impenetrable. But Jesus mowed people over with His compassion and wisdom--and grace.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Flowers, the test of the mind

My mind is pondering George MacDonald today. He is hands down my favorite author. Excluding my daughter of course :). He comes to mind every time I look at my flowers in the garden. If you read much of George MacDonald you can understand why. George MacDonald talks of becoming a mind awake. His test as to whether your mind is or isn't awake is to look at a rose. If the beauty of that rose brings you to tears, your mind is awake. I don't know that roses bring me to tears but sometimes they feel like a symphony, such a blend of color, movement and light. It is a part of God's art that is delicate and revealing.

I long to be a mind awake but I think sometimes I'm too tired or distracted to really see anything. Sometimes I'm my worst enemy that way. I start my day desiring to connect with God and His creation but I sequester in my house and never go out to look. What about that? (listening) It is always cool to hear direction from the LORD without any disgust or condemnation. All I hear is a sense of calling... come on out and have a look. Sounds good to me. My chickens are calling to me too. "let us out of this coop!" The day is too short to waste in here. Hmmm I wonder if they have something to teach me :) Take a look... what do you see?