Thursday, November 29, 2007
It's the greatest commandment. The greatest.
Thou shalt love God. (shortened)
Thou shalt love God.
If I ordered you to love me as a daughter, a wife, a sister, a mother... wouldn't you laugh at the impossibility of such an order? I can't just tell you to love me.
But God told you to love me too.
Thou shalt love your neighbor.
It's the second greatest commandment.
Love is so fickle now days, with people thinking they're in love, getting married, and then 'falling out of love' and getting divorced. Families set against each other locked in bitter silences. All this, seemingly out of our control, because "you just can't make yourself feel love for someone".
Yet here God, without a moment of hesitation, says You MUST love Me. You MUST love your neighbor.
If I MUST - how do I do it?
Some neighbors are harder to love than others.
And sometimes you just don't feel anything.
In reflecting on G.D. Watsons teaching to love the person of Christ, I began to wonder about my desire for Heaven.
If I had the choice for Heaven, a sinless place where only people that loved God were, the angelic choir is singing Holy Holy Holy, and finding Paul or Timothy and talking to them, no sickness, no suffering, no death, no tears -
Would I chose that over staying in a sinful world if Jesus were walking on it as He once did?
If so, did I break the greatest commandment or fulfill it?
We have a revelation of God's personal feelings in the first commandment. We are to love Him with all our heart! The complaint that Jesus had against the Church at Ephesus was their lack of fervent, personal love for Him; they had "works" and "labor" and "patience," and great zeal in searching out heretics, and in bearing persecution and the scorn of their neighbors, and had not fainted under hardships. If such a list of graces were now found in one person, he would be esteemed a great saint ; and yet the infinite Searcher of hearts saw the lack of something for which all these noble virtues could not atone; and that was a warm, deep, incessant, cleaving, tender passion of soul for the person of the Lord Jesus.
Very few Christians reach such an intimacy with our dear Lord as to receive and appreciate His individual feelings. Jesus is an infinite lover, and nothing will satisfy Him but a pure, sacred, passionate, and personal love. He loves to be loved. He loves those most who have the most personal affection for Him. There are so many things that are eminently religious, and brave, and enterprising, and reformatory, which display great zeal and orthodoxy, but which do not satisfy the longings of our Savior's heart.
This form of love is strongly attached to the possessions of Christ. There is a peculiar attachment which always goes with the possession of a thing. It is the affection of ownership. As soon as anything becomes our property, we have a peculiar attachment which never could exist previous to ownership. This is; why Jesus said, "Where your possessions are, there will your heart be," He does not say the possessions will go where the heart is, but the heart will go where the possessions are. Hence the soul in perfect, loving union with Jesus will find itself taking hold of all His personal kingdom and all His property, as a young queen finds the affections of her heart stretching out to all the subjects and enterprises of her King's dominion.
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
There's a site you can go to and read a daily journal of his progress if you would like. And a guestbook if you'd like to leave a word of prayer or support for the family.
You have to put in your e-mail address and register with them, I'm sure you understand that any precaution is reasonable considering all the family is dealing with.
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
We have a whole new perspective on life. The Lord has provided everything we need. We have a rental home, beds, refrigerator, washer/dryer. All the rest of the stuff that was in our home ended up being fuel for the fire. We are humbled and convicted about all the money we spent on knick-knacks and so forth that could have been spent helping other people. We are going to go about life completely differently this time. We are changed people.
I wrote an entire post about it, only to finally end up erasing it and coming back to rest at his quote. I wish I could express how close to my heart this is. If you could start all over with nothing, a brand new slate, would you actually try and keep it that way?
Monday, November 26, 2007
If you've spent much time at all in the book of Ezekiel, you know that God is pretty ticked off. It's verse after verse of "You've played the harlot with your idols" and "I will unleash my fury" and all sorts of other very frightening predictions/declarations if you're looking at it from the receivers point of view. But here, in chapter 20 verses 41-44 there is just a brief moment where you're able to take a breath and remember how merciful God is.
"I will accept you as a sweet aroma when I bring you out from the peoples and gather you out of the countries where you have been scattered; and I will be hallowed in you before the Gentiles. Then you shall know that I am the LORD, when I bring you into the land of Israel, into the country for which I lifted my hand in an oath to give to your fathers. And there you shall remember your ways and all your doings with which you were defiled; and you shall loathe yourselves in your own sight because of all the evils that you have committed. Then you shall know that I am the LORD, when I have dealt with you for My name's sake, not according to your wicked ways nor according to your corrupt doings, O house of Israel," says the Lord GOD'."
It's what I couldn't figure out how to say for the last couple of weeks. I remember crashing. I remember my weakness, my confusion, my inability to stand. And now I'm being gathered together to Him again, and then, I knew that He is the LORD, when He dealt with me for His name's sake, not according to my ways.
Sunday, November 25, 2007
The words go:
When the music fades and all is stripped away, and I simply come. Longing just to bring, something that's of worth, that will bless Your heart.
I'm coming back to the heart of worship and it's all about You, it's all about You, Jesus.
I'm sorry Lord for the thing I made it, when it's all about You, it's all about You Jesus.
I've had several people jokingly tell me that I didn't get the heart of the song, because I always play the piano during that song. And the song starts off "When the music fades". It's a joke, I'm not offended, but remembering it now, I wonder if those people had as limited an idea of the song as I did. Until recently.
There are so many aspects to worship. It's not just singing. In anything that we give to Jesus, it's all too easy to start focusing on the giving, rather than the Receiver. I know in my own life I often find myself working hard. But I forget what I'm working AT. Sometimes you get so busy singing a song, you forget you're worshipping God. Sometimes you get so busy writing a check you forget you're tithing to God. Sometimes you get so busy cooking a meal, correcting, and giving baths, that you forget you're raising a child.
I've been interested in the story of Mary and Martha ever since I read the post concerning their application to real life by John Lynch.
I wish the bible gave me an indication of what Martha did after God told her only one thing was needful and that Mary had chosen it. I wonder if she said "I'm coming back to the heart of worship Master, and it's all about You."
Or did she just go back to her preparations confused about how she was suppose to feed Him AND sit at his feet.
Friday, November 23, 2007
It's written by Jim Martin over at "A place for the God-Hungry". It's simply titled "Graciousness".
Thursday, November 22, 2007
But, as I woke up this morning I wondered.... how would Jesus celebrate Thanksgiving?
Would He go eat with family? For some reason, I'm not sure He would.
He held to the Passover tradition. Did that feel like a holiday? Even then, He didn't go to His parents for a Passover Lamb. But He did honor it with His disciples. Who cooked the passover meal for Him?
I don't think Jesus would celebrate by watcing the parades this morning. Or eating till He was stuffed.
When Christmas rolls around, I don't think He'd buy toys and games for kids that have toys and games. I think His gifts would be far more practical, and not necessarily given to those he's related to or friends with. I think He'd give where the need was. Not where the expectation was.
That's not to say He doesn't bless us beautifully with things. My job is certainly a gift that went beyond meeting a practical need. He can be extravagant. But it's with a very specific purpose. He doesn't fulfill our every wish, but He certainly sees those deep desires of our hearts and every now and then wraps one up and sets them by our door.
I want to celebrate the way Jesus would celebrate.
I don't know a lot of people that have physical needs. I don't know people that can't afford to have a turkey dinner today much less people that can't afford to eat at all. I just don't know that many people with real physical needs.
Jesus would though. Because Jesus would have spent the entire year looking for them, getting to know them, and teaching them about Himself and His Father, while meeting those daily needs. He would become known to them, and they would bring others to Him for His provision. And His small group of needy people, would become a large group of touched people.
So it's not really all about what I do on Thanksgiving day. It's what I do all year long.
God knows where to find them. He knows, if He walked into my town exactly where He would begin His ministry, and what He would do to begin it. I want to do it in His stead so I guess I need to check in with the Boss and see what He wants me to do.
God is good, He is gracious, and this Thanksgiving I'm very thankful for Him.
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
The day before that wonderful day of Thanksgiving.
I'm thankful for the foster child I had an that is gone.
I'm thankful for Little One, the foster child that's still here.
I'm thankful for the house God pushed me into buying.
I'm thankful for the job He gave me despite my best efforts to unimpress.
I'm thankful for the cheap car He gave me that takes a beating from the kids I've hauled and yet it rarely complains. (why is the hood so much fun to climb on?)
I'm thankful for my church. And the knowledge that it's the place I'm suppose to be at right now.
I'm thankful for my family, and the fact that they all know God.
I'm thankful for my niece and nephew and the time they get to spend with me.
I'm thankful for the new friends I've made this year.
I'm thankful for the plans God has given me for new ministries.
I'm thankful for the lessons, regardless of how difficult, that I've learned this year.
I'm thankful that most people are people of good character, even if they aren't people of God.
I'm thankful for the Holy Spirit.
I'm thankful for the Holy Spirit.
I'm thankful for the Holy Spirit.
Sunday, November 18, 2007
And in the midst of it all, I realized how much of my thoughts are taken up with how I've missed the mark. Maybe I wasn't kind enough, or patient enough, maybe I didn't spend as much time in prayer or bible reading as I felt I should have.... the list of shortcomings is plenty full and always growing.
And, me and my shortcomings, realized what a me-centered faith I have. My faith is only as great as I am - rather than being as great as God is.
There has been no overnight change for this behavior. But, as I began dealing with it, so came that pleasant feeling that He's mercies (plural) toward me aren't dependent on me. They're dependent on Him, being exactly who He says He is.
God knew what a cracked up vessel I was right from the beginning. Yet He chose me anyway. So when I enter into His presence I don't need to be wallowing around telling Him I've missed the mark and just don't 'get it'. I just need to forget what is behind and press towards the mark.
Not to say I stop trying to improve. But if my focus is God - I'll improve, and if my focus is improvement - ehhh, not so much.
It's over at Nates. And the article is called "God loves you. Seriously."
Saturday, November 17, 2007
It came from the post "Our Silent, Slow God part 2" over at "Hungry and Thirsty"
There are so many ways in which the story of Lazarus feels familiar.
- A personal crisis emerges, which - unknown to us - God lovingly intends to use for his glory and our greatest good.
- We, like Mary & Martha, ask God for help; but he delays and our problems grow worse.
- Finally, God arrives and invites us to trust him; but we, like Martha, have real trouble.
- Sometimes we're like Mary - too angry or disappointed with God to even open up at first.
- God keeps calling us to himself, like Jesus does with Mary, until finally we respond honestly and ventilate our frustration and pain to him.
- He enters into our suffering and weeps with us.
- Some take comfort in his empathetic presence. Others blame him for not intervening.
- In his time, he meets our deepest needs in unimaginable ways.
- The result is glory for God and amazing new life for us and others... two sides of the same coin. In hindsight, we hope to never go through that sort of thing again, but wouldn't trade what we've gained for the ease of avoiding it.
Thursday, November 15, 2007
The Christian gospel is a message of liberation to those who are enslaved by sin. In our presentation of the gospel we must not stop with forgiveness because as wonderful as that is, Jesus not only promises to forgive our sins, but to set us free from the power of sin. Even though our experience of complete liberation from sin, and from death which is inevitably attached to it, awaits the new heaven and earth, here and now, in this life, there is power to live a life of faith and repentance in the Lord
This profound experience of liberation with the promise of complete liberation to come should make Christians sensitive to forms of human slavery that exist in our world today and we should be willing to do what we can to break the bonds of those who are oppressed by cruel and immoral masters.
Thanks to Milton Stanley at Transforming Sermons for linking me toward it.
He was attacked last Friday morning and his head was severely bashed in at the back.
He's only 22, active, athletic, and living a crazy life.
He's not ready to die.
He needs a miracle.
Please join me in my petition for that very miracle.
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
STOP worrying about what you can do, and what you can't do.
START concentrating on what HE can do.
STOP worrying about what will happen, or won't happen.
START concentrating on what HE wants to happen. Then believe for it, because He can bring it about with or without you, and you would rather it be "with".
STOP worrying about how you've failed or how much better you think you should be.
START concentrating on how HE won't fail (which means HE will fulfill the promise to finish the work HE started in YOU).
STOP worrying about how little you got done and how you don't have enough time.
START remembering that HE got everything accomplished that He planned and HE is still right on schedule.
STOP counting your problems.
START counting your blessings. (half your problems come from having so many blessings to take care of... did you ever think of that?)
STOP remembering your past.
START remembering HIS. His past has been a magnificently painted portrait blended perfectly to allow you to be where you are, when you are, to do what you do.
STOP looking for a perfect world.
START looking to a perfect GOD, who will make a perfect YOU.
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
At his question, I took a moment and considered how strange it would feel to be somewhere without her. My family wouldn't understand just how strange it felt, they wouldn't imagine how constantly on my mind she would be. They'd be preoccupied with their conversation and food.
Then today, I had an encouraging talk with the CPS caseworker that says things are going really well on the parents end. And for a brief moment I remembered that the next court date was only a couple of months away... what if she left then? The thought started my stomach churning at the very idea. Reality set in that she more than likely wouldn't go home that soon, but it still brought to mind that she isn't here to stay. She's going to leave. And it's going to rock my world a little when she goes. Despite the fact that everyone immediately talks about the child leaving (when they find out you're a foster parent), I hadn't really spent much time considering her leaving. And I think I'm going to try my best to go back to not considering it again. No use mourning one day before it happens.
The biggest thing is, besides the loss of relationship, the routine hugs and bedtime stories, the holding her banana while she climbs into the car seat, the sleepy "Hey Net" as she wakes up each morning, is knowing that she could be walking into a scary future without me. I know I would protect her as best as I possibly could if I were there. But she'll have to walk into that future without me.
I'm leading you somewhere with all this, can you tell yet?
How much does God the Father mourn over us? Sometimes, we like sheep have gone astray, and He loses that routine prayer time with us, talking to us, watching us struggle and try again, watching our faith grow and our occasional unselfish expressions of love that make Him proud of us. And He knows we're walking into something without Him. He knows the temptations we're going to face, the consequences to the sins we'll commit, the life long sorrow it can cause.
I wonder if that's how God sees us. That we haven't allowed ourselves to be adopted, but have only become His 'foster children'. We don't claim the family heritage and stay forever. Instead, we come into His family, while looking back at our old one. Hoping that it will become better while we're with God, and we'll just be able to go back into it like we were before. Except now instead of sinners, we'll be ' a good person'.
I don't want to be Gods foster child. I want to know I'm here for good. A part of His family. I want to forget about my former life surrounded by sin, and evil. And erase my last name with all it's ties to it's heritage of sin, and fully embrace a new name written in Glory. His name.
To add into that - the best part of it? When you go to court to adopt a foster child - the child doesn't have to prove anything. The future parent only has to show that they have fulfilled every requirement necessary to make this child their own. And then show documentation that the childs former life has proved worthless. The judge considers it, and both parties agree to the adoption (both parent and child) and a new name is written down.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Monday, November 12, 2007
Sunday, November 11, 2007
I'd just fed 3 kids, checked my online bank statement, made sure two kids made their beds, then helped the 3rd kid get dressed and straighten her bed.
I pondered my mortgage payment (which by the way, I'm very glad to have) and wondered if my car would last two more years. I replaced the batteries in the remote control and made a mental note that it's eating through batteries too quickly and I should replace the remote.
I picked up things around the house just before leaving for church and while I was doing so I randomly noted that the hammering sounds I'd been hearing (the kids were outside hammering any nails they found sticking out- for fun) the sound had changed, so I went outside and became "one of those people" as I stood outside looking stupefied saying "What on earth were you thinking?" The lecture made us later than usual leaving for church.
Church came and went, and then I found myself in a restaurant with an arcade and two kids asking for quarters. After explaining the change maker machine doesn't take debit cards I ended up telling the kids they'd have to pray for a miracle if they wanted quarters (fyi - by the time we'd left, they'd gotten to play 1 game for free just because the game began playing for them, they found 5 game tokens and got to play games with those, and they also found one bouncy ball somewhere in the arcade - miracles indeed).
I tried to remember if I'd paid my tithes that morning or not as I drove the two kids that aren't mine to their house. Hugs, and and fond farewells, then off we went, Little One and I back to the house. 10 minutes of the ride she cried saying she didn't want to take a nap when we got home. The last 10 minutes of the ride she slept. I carried her in to her bed, tucked her in and went back to work finishing a project around the house and straightening up. I saw a bug. Do I need to buy some bug spray next time I'm at the store?
Pour some apple juice before I wake up little one so she won't stand around crying for it while I'm getting it. Show her the project I'm working on and then feed her. Go to church. Miss the very end of church because little one had to go 'poo poo' as she announced in far too loud a loud whisper for any sentence containing the word 'poo poo'. Church comes and goes. Drive back to the other two kids house to take stuff they'd forgot to pack. Find out that a headlight is out.
Go to wal-mart, buy a new head light and then replace it while making sure that Little One isn't running into traffic.
Drive home, and spend the next hour and a half trying to console Little One enough that she can fall asleep.
When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
You can say it happened several years ago. By law maybe it happened when I was 17 or 18. But for me, it happened today. Today I understood what it means to have the weight of responsibility of so many little things on your shoulders. I understand better why so few people have joy. It's hard to find time for joy.
I'm not unhappy. Quite the contrary, I am very happy. But I see the difference between the adults heart and the childs heart just a little bit better now. I'm no longer the kid doing adult things, but an adult. How'd that happen?
I'd write more, but I need to start a load of laundry, feed the cat, check on Little One, and do a quick search of my fridge to make sure I do have some chicken in there that we can have tomorrow like I promised her. And hopefully tonight I won't fall asleep before I'm done praying.
Friday, November 09, 2007
Little one has been with me over 3 months now. 100 days of being away from mommy, and living with me. Every week, every day has gotten better and better and better. Until this week. This week it's like the world turned upside down and this little one can't see straight for crazy. All she does is cry. Daycare distracts, church distracts, and if I can keep her around other people, they distract. But after they're gone, she cries.
She wants her mommy.
Tuesday night, she sat eating dinner, heartbroken, crying between bites. Wednesday night after eating dinner with some friends, her smile faded and by the time we got to the driveway of home she was crying.
She even wakes up crying.
Through all this, when it's just me and her, suddenly instead of playing, all she wants to do is stand by my side or be held.
I asked people about this, as to what on earth happened to mess with her so much this week.
It turns out it's attachment issues.
It's actually a pretty good thing. It means she's bonding to me and it's confusing her because of her attachments to mommy.
So here's the lesson:
The more she wants to hold onto me, the more she cries for mommy.
It's a crazy emotional thing that doesn't make sense logically, but is exactly what it is. And as she sat in my lap tonight I thought back to so many occasions where I did the exact same thing to God.
The more I want to hold onto God, the more I hold onto the world.
It's crazy. Enlightening, but crazy.
It's one of those "Oh, come on" things... Something I knew, I really did know, but tonight made me gasp at the reality of it. Holding onto God, has to mean letting go of the world. But I know what holding onto worldly things looks like. It is familiar. It's not crazy looking.
Holding onto God, fully letting go of this world, is more than a little scary. Every time I turn around He's nudging me into bigger and more challenging things. What would happen if every last ounce of me went into His arms and His will?
Sitting here, I thought briefly about how most Christians would tell me that He'll never take you anywhere you're not prepared to go, and that once you actually take hold of Him fully, you won't be afraid of that step any more.
And then I imagined a first time skydiver. Excitement and adrenaline flowing through their veins as they watch the videos, listen to the safety instructions, then climb into the plane. They're excited, ready to take the leap. Then comes that moment when, standing at the door of the airplane, you realize you're suppose to step out onto nothing and fall for awhile, trusting in fabric and lines. That's when doubt and fear comes up. And you have to make the decision, you have to decide at that moment if you're actually going to jump.
Fortunately for us, God is more patient than a pilot and will never tell you He's going to land and your chance will be over. He's always waiting and willing to draw you any step closer that you'll come.
There are a lot of Christians out there though, parachute strapped to their back, that will spend their entire lives flying around in circles, looking at the door.
Just my luck, I'd end up entangled in some technical issue of who packed my parachute.
Here's the e-mail.
Hello and peace be unto you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. I hope this letters finds you safe in Christ and I have prayed that God will use you as a vessel to meet the needs of His children here.
My name is Igho Izekor and I’m reaching you from Africa. Yesterday after school I sat for some minutes in our school staff office checking the Internet for online books by Bishop David Oyedipo, there I came across your email. I believe it is God’s order for this to happen.
I am married with five children and me and my family fellowship in Jesus Family Bible Church, a small church with a great vision where Jimoh David (email@example.com) is the pastor. I am through God’s mercies born again and serving the Lord faithfully pressing towards the mark. I’M one of our church rural evangelists and through God’s grace I’m able to go with the team once a week (Saturdays) to reach souls in neighboring villages. I have very great compassion for lost souls so the evangelical team is the better place I can serve in the church. My occupation: I am a teacher in a primary school and in my school we have a staff computer Internet where I’m now able to reach you. I grew in the village and my parents were farmer but I had the opportunity to acquire western education but not too many people do in my place.
The purpose for writing you is to appeal for your help for bibles. In the past six months we have visited Iguadolor village continually and many people have been won there for Christ particularly the old fathers and mothers. Old persons mostly inhabit the villages here because the young ones are drifting to the urban areas in order to enjoy amenities like electricity and pipe-borne water that are not available in the village. There are up to 50 persons in need of bibles but not all can read. There are four aged couples and five individuals who can read and asking for bibles. They have so much show concern that we are keeping them always in our prayers for provision of bibles for them. We need 13 giant print bibles for these loved ones who are now saved and eager to feed from God’s word. They cannot afford bibles because they are cost much in this place. Please help to supply bibles to these our brothers and sisters in need. The King James Version will be preferable used or !new. Please send the bibles through my address above. If you have any Christian literature one or two that is enriching to the spirit man please send me.
I pray for you in Jesus name that the Lord will provide for you to help for the need and also bless you as you help.
Bye for now and write soon.
Your in Christ,
Thursday, November 08, 2007
When I daydream, I picture some stern looking deacon standing at the door with an offering plate, telling people as they come in to 'give' of their watches. Sure, you can have them back when you leave. But for just a portion of your day, time is Gods and Gods alone.
This time, has nothing to do with what time your brisket should be coming out of the oven. It has nothing to do with whether you're supposed to take your child to a birthday party at 1pm. It has nothing to do with what time your kids have to get up the next morning, or how tired they might be. It has to do with God. And that's it.
I'd like to see the standard become having the anointing fall, that special anointing that seems to flood once you've pressed in, and only once you've pressed in. And I'd like to see the standard become rigidly held to as closely as we hold onto our clocks. I'd like to see each person stubbornly stand firm, forsaking their timeline, forsaking their expectation of what time they'll get out of church, and standing firmly and expectantly, waiting for that Spirit.
When I've felt those sweet moments in a group setting (too few a time), I've come to imagine that maybe that is what it felt like when the waters were troubled at the pool of Bethesda.
But much like I complained a few days ago, it takes too long.
Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In time and worship.
Mal 3:8 (except my italicized rewrite)
I confess. I'm a thief.
I too easily throw out terms like God is due our lives. But as a single person temporarily raising a 3 yr old, while working from 8-5 let me tell you, my life is not primarily spent on God. If I were Adam, I'd probably find myself passing rainchecks to God most nights that He wanted to take me for a walk. I'm busy tonight God, the laundry needs to be done and tomorrow is lunchable day at the daycare so we need to run to the grocery store. I'm afraid I barely going to have time to give Little One a bath, much less have time to sit and wait for Your presence. If You'd only get here quicker. I might could hold off returning that phone call for 15 minutes, so You and I could take a walk.
Even as I just typed that though, the understanding hit me. I'm not waiting on Him to get here. He's waiting on me to get there.
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
I opened up an e-mail today from the company that sends me a magazine. They were asking me to take a survey:
"Hi Jeanette, please share your opinions.
To make sure we are on track, we've sent some questions to a select group of readers to find out what we're doing right and what we could do better."
It will only take 10 minutes to fill out our survey.
Thanks for your time!"
So, with about 15 minutes to kill, I clicked the link to go to the survey.
It asks me to put in my e-mail address and immediately after I do, the screen changes to give me the message:
"Thank you for your willingness to share your opinions with us, but unfortunately you did not meet the criteria to take a survey today. We hope you will participate in future surveys."
Wait a minute - I thought I was one of a 'select group of readers'. Am I or aren't I? If I don't meet the criteria, why'd you send me an e-mail? Why did you tell me I was a 'select group'? Why would I waste my time coming back to take future surveys? I don't "meet the criteria!". Send your e-mails to someone that does meet the criteria. What I think is that you sent that same dumb e-mail to every person on your address list, and then told your computer which e-mail address "did not meet criteria".
I don't get angry often, I consider ranting more of a fun sport.
But as I thought about how I didn't meet their criteria, I saw something in there about my relationship with God.
For God so loved the world
Whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned
Not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
It makes me nervous when you cast a wide net.
It's not so much the salvation part that I'll struggle with. Anyone can click the link, every subscriber gets the e-mail. You're in. But it's when you go to actually do something that someone pops up and says "Thanks for being willing to try and minister to _______, but unfortunately you don't meet the criteria to minister to ______ today. We hope you will participate in future ministries."
Maybe you're divorced, failed to remain abstinent, maybe you've got a few tattoos, or haven't been able to quit smoking. Maybe God has something for you to do, but unfortunately when you go to minister you've got to get past the God-Squad, well-meaning brothers and sisters in Christ whose internal workings are already programmed with the "Christian code" that automatically kicks back some volunteers with the "unfortunately you don't meet the criteria" message.
Before you've even turned around to walk away you're probably already doubting that you'd heard from God because people are a lot easier to hear than God is. And people said you aren't qualified. The next time the message comes to to to do something, you're probably going to kick it back saying "I don't meet the criteria" and rarely try again. I know I'm not going to click the "take the survey" button again.
Just because the net is so wide, "everyone" and "all" are welcome, doesn't mean you feel like you belong. Some fine dining restaurants don't have a dress code that they enforce, but the minute you walk in wearing your shorts and flip flops, you know that sure, you can come in because everyone is welcome, but you you do not meet the criteria.
Church people tend to behave a certain way. Most church people, meet church people criteria if you know what I mean. Yet, when Christ was on earth he didn't meet the criteria either. He spoke to people that weren't morally acceptable enough to be spoken to by other peoples standards. He touched people that, by law were unclean and couldn't be touched. He said things, that absolutely confounded other leaders because they weren't the acceptable things to be saying. He even ate wrong.
All that said, it makes me wish less and less of us met the criteria. Maybe it's that very criteria and how well you meet it that decides if you're going to be a "church people" or a "Christian".
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
In the last year since I've started this little hobby, I've told a lot of people about their money. But I haven't told everyone. Sometimes the amount is too small, and that fact coupled with me not knowing them too well, often means I'll sit on the information. Also, one of the things that keeps me from telling just anyone about their money, is the fact that a lot of those I've told seemed to think claiming it would be too difficult.
It's a mental block that people seem to have. It's government run, it's money, so it's assumed that it's not going to be easy to claim. I understand the logic, but the truth of the matter is, there's actually only one small form with easy to answer questions, and then you make a copy of id's proving you are the person that the money is owed to. You mail it in, and voila! a couple of months later you get money in the mail. The wait also seems to daunt them. It's not immediate, and somehow the fact that you might wait 2 months for the check to arrive makes your $36.12 less important.
As I mentally complained about all the people in the world that aren't willing to collect their money, I realized I do the same with God.
It's too hard to be one of those people God speaks to, works through, performs miracles by.
When in actuality, all it takes is submitting to Him, talking to Him, loving Him.
It takes too long to see results. I prayed, I submitted, I loved, but months later I'd only seen a few visions. I wanted more, and didn't want to wait.
Again, the wait doesn't make the prize less valuable.
As I read through list after list of names, some names bringing up more than 200 results so I'd have to narrow things down a bit, I wondered what the book would say if God kept a list of unclaimed authority. Maybe it'd read something like
Last contact 2/19/1998
Authority over sickness / healing gift - unclaimed.
To claim please contact issuing agent.
Claimant must present proof of adoption.
I wonder what Gods lists would look like. How many have gifts they just don't use?
Every now and then I'll do a search for any random name like "John Smith" within a town. And at times, I've found people owed thousands of dollars. And they just haven't claimed it. They don't realize it's there. I have to tell you, everything in me wants to call up a perfect stranger when I see those kinds of numbers. And I have. Would you believe I had to leave a message?
For a lot of people, even if it's a small amount it's enough to change a week, pay a bill, or buy that tank of gas you needed for the week. But hundreds of thousands of dollars lies unclaimed. For no reason other than either they're unwilling to put the effort out to grab it, or quite simply no one has told them.
This unclaimed money has taught me a good deal about salvation. I'm hesitant to tell strangers about FREE MONEY. Did you get that? FREE MONEY. All you have to do is claim it.
How much harder would it be to convince someone to claim something as vague sounding as spiritual growth?
Or how about calling up a stranger to tell them of free salvation they might not be aware of?
Monday, November 05, 2007
I was looking over some old posts I'd written and in February of this year I gave myself a warning. I wrote a post called "I don't want to be the gingerbreadman." I remember writing it with a feeling of seriousness. I remember as I typed the childish poem at the end of the post that there was no fun sense of whimsy, but only sober and serious caution.
And I didn't pay attention to it.
Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. 1 Corinthians 10:12
And 9 months later, here I am crashed on the ground fumbling with broken shards of faith just wishing that life had as handy a 'Restore" button as my Windows program does.
I've realized how much I demand more 'substance of things' than 'substance of things hoped for'. I exist off it, and God has provided a lot of substance for me through the years. Even if that substance has only been evidenced in feelings. I've felt a lot of things, and trying to do this on faith alone... well, it's hard. And I've discovered I don't have a lot of faith alone.
Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. 1 Corinthians 10:12
So I fell. And I fell hard. But I see how much I relied on feelings before, rather than blind faith. And, to get up the way I need to get up, I'm going to have to start believing because I believe. Not because I see, or feel, or heard Him. But because His word tells me who He is, and I believe it.
I've believed because I've seen.
Now I need to grow to seeing because I've believed.
I've just got to start believing.
Sunday, November 04, 2007
A hug to me, really doesn't seem like much. I've learned to fear it, endure it, tolerate it, welcome it from a few people (and all children), or simply accept it somewhat indifferently. Some people are huggers, and some people just simply have to learn to be huggees.
But I never really considered there to be much power in it, a simple hug, until Little One arrived. Over the months, a hug has been enough to make her stop misbehaving. Some nights when she's crying for her mommy, one long hug ends the tears and helps her sleep. A hug sometimes has changed an hour from a whiny crying hour, to an hour of happy play. A hug.
Who woulda thunk it? A hug can change an attitude. It makes sad become happy, calms the frightened, and heals the hurting. A hug.
In a different aspect of it, I remember a few months back talking with a friend when unexpectedly a rush of affection flooded through me. Suddenly, the reluctant huggee wanted to become a hugger. The conversation was random and general - certainly not something they would have expected a hug to blend into, so I didn't follow the urge. But I remember that feeling. It seemed most important because the feeling didn't come from anything except genuine affection for who they were. Not times shared, things done, or words spoken, but simply because standing there, looking into their eyes, I saw them for who they really were and loved them.
I use that feeling now as a baseline of how I should feel towards God when my love should come from a heart overwhelmed by who He is rather than what He's done.
I know that a hug works better right now for Little One than punishment does. It takes two punishments to equal the behavior change brought about by one hug. I wonder if that's why love is mentioned 442 times in the bible, and hell only 54 times. I confess, it doesn't seem like it should work. Even though I've watched it change Little One, I'm still skeptical! I just can't understand why it changes a situation.
But I've seen it happen time and time again these last three months.
As just a random side thought - thinking out loud - I wonder if that's the difference between beating and loving. You can might try and beat the devil out of someone, but the only way to get Jesus into someone is to love Him in.
Saturday, November 03, 2007
The Brides Desire: Lessons From The Song Of Solomon
"Catch us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines, for our vines have tender grapes." (Song 2:15). This is the Bride's prayer that all the defects and faults connected with her life may be utterly removed, that she may have not only a personal fitness to meet her Lord, but also be found full of good fruit, unspoiled by blight from any earthly creature. Great, destructive savage beasts and serpents represent Satan and demons, but the fox is not such a savage beast, and especially little foxes, which are more like puppies and kittens, and full of play, for these represent not the vices of sin, but little shortcomings, little silly thoughts, or words, little negligences of prayer, of obedience, of right manners, of not doing good, little blemishes that spoil the bloom on the perfect ripe fruit.
The true saint cannot bear these little foxes that seem to other Christians so harmless, and yet they are sufficiently of the flesh to hinder the perfection of devotion, and that deep, constant communion of the heart with Christ, that marks the perfect ripening of all the graces. Though her Bridegroom is hid in those high clefts in the steep places, yet she knows He has power, through the Holy Spirit, to destroy those little foxes that hinder the full growth of the tender grapes.
"My beloved is mine, and I am His." This verse opens to us another rich thought in this Love Song, and that is the mutual ownership between Christ and His saints. This intense passion of proprietorship is universal, and belongs to God and all His creatures, even to the lower animals, who will fight for the ownership of a grain of corn. Now, when Adam fell every normal instinct in the human soul was perverted and exaggerated, hence sin has utterly filled with the passion for ownership, and made it the unspeakable curse of the world in covetousness. When we are regenerated and thoroughly purified from inward sin, this instinct of proprietorship is restored back to God, and then under the full baptism of the Spirit, and by a life of prayer, we are brought to that blessed place where we see and feel that God is our own, and especially He is our own in Christ, for it is only through the blessed Jesus that we can seize upon the living God, and appropriate Him as altogether ours. On the other hand, we belong to Christ by creation, and by redemption, and when He transforms us and fills us with Himself, we become still more His own, not only as a piece of property, but as joined with Him in His very life and graces and destiny. This expression occurs three times in this divine Song, and each time it is on a rising scale, containing a wonderful suggestion of the steps in this proprietorship, and showing that we are to sink out of the thought of our ownership, and be lost in that great ocean of the ownership which our Lord has in us, and all things.
Now, just notice how the three expressions are used: The first is "My beloved is mine and I am His," in which you notice that the Bride puts her ownership first, and her Bridegroom's ownership in her comes next. Again, "I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine." (Song 6:3). Here you notice she puts the Bridegroom's ownership first, and her ownership in Him comes last, for you see the ownership which Christ has in us is far beyond any ownership we can have in Him, for we are His absolutely and beyond our thoughts. The third time, the words are "I am my beloved's, and His desire is toward me." (Song 7:10). Here you see the Bride sees nothing except her Lord's ownership in her, and that all His love and desire is toward her, and she forgets to mention her own proprietorship, or else the very thought of her ownership is lost in that sea of love where everything is sunk into Christ, and His blessed ownership swallows all things in its vastness and sacred keeping. Thus the "me", and the "my", gradually, or by distinct steps, sink away into being lost in a loving gaze upon our God, and that we do not mention our rights, or our possession, but only see that Christ is all and in all.
Friday, November 02, 2007
And I wouldn't have to pretend I did. Because no one was there to pretend to.
I'm not even sure if I knew before then that it was pretend. But the reality that I was playing at being a Christian set in rather unpleasantly. I told God I wanted the real thing, but nothing changed and I still couldn't seem to find my way. Deep down was the fear that God had indeed given up on me. I'd heard so many preachers over the years talk about how God calls and calls but will turn you over due to the hardness of your heart. I'd heard preachers talk about how God hates hypocrites - which was just a fancy word for pretenders like me. I was scared.
So I did what I do extraordinarily well. I got mad at Him. I complained about my past, my present, my problems, my burdens, everything that I felt was wrong with the world including Him. You name it, I was complaining to Him about it. I woke up telling Him how cruddy the world was. I ate lunch telling Him how I thought it stunk that He'd allow people to hurt other people. I drove home from work telling Him how much I hated life itself, and didn't want to live. I went to bed telling Him that everything seemed hopeless and only obligation kept me going every single day. Not God, certainly not Him. I couldn't find my way in to Him. So a great big phooey on Him.
I don't know how long the anger continued. But over time, I had begun complaining to God all day long. Everywhere I went, from the grocery store to work to dinner, He was there and I was ranting. Slowly the ranting changed to talking, and over the years the talking melted into friendship. Until at some point, He had become my Savior, Lord, Christ Jesus. Most people can tell you when they were saved, but I can't. At some point I just looked around and realized that I was.
I'm just thinking about how important it was, what a difference it made in my life, when I put God in every moment of every day.
Thursday, November 01, 2007
I love those words, and I absolutely enjoy that feeling of 'communing' with God. Those moments once you've pressed in - where everything just flows in a rhythm that you know doesn't come from you. If you're me, you get up from those moments red eyed, snotty nosed, and feeling like the world has come off your shoulders. Even if I didn't go into it all that burdened, somehow I just feel lighter afterwards. It's a great feeling.
But it's also a feeling I haven't enjoyed lately. I blogged awhile back about feeling like there was a wall between God and I, but then I left the problem alone. Slowly, eventually I found myself praying less and less. In the past months I've felt crushed with weakness, overwhelmed by the feeling of evil around me, and worse yet, aloof from God. Having some of the problems go away, didn't change that distance between Him and me.
With it all over, I found myself trying to go back to my normal ways of praying, only to feel like I was talking to a wall. Yes, there are times when you need to 'press through', but for me, it felt like I was missing something. Even worshipping was requiring more and more effort before it began to flow from my heart.
So tonight I found myself, where else, but at my piano. And I told God all about it. I told Him I didn't feel right praying. And that's why the time I'd spent in it had gradually decreased over the last weeks. I told Him that after all this mess the last few months, I just don't understand why He's holding onto me. I've done enough. I've sinned enough. I've doubted enough. I might excuse other people, but I've been raised in church my whole life. I know better. But I didn't believe any better.
After all that, I asked Him not to give up on me. He spoke to me. I asked Him to keep holding onto me, even though I don't deserve it. And then I began interceeding for others. I brought needs to Him, humbly, confessing my selfish reasons for wanting whoever I was praying for to be healthy but asking Him to move anyway. As I reached some needs the Holy Spirit stirred and I would begin praying in tongues for them. As I finally had to step away and carry on with the night I knew that He'd heard me. For at least this one night the wall was gone, and I had the priceless treasure, the pure delight, of communing as friend with friend.
As I thought about the difference between tonights prayers, and the way I normally bring needs to God, I realized that I would normally assume these prayers were weaker than the other prayers. Before there was a strength and boldness to my prayers. Tonight, humility and the absolute knowledge of being undeserving were the foundation. But I asked anyway, for no other reason than because He says He loves us.
I know I needed to be humbled. I know I did, indeed, need the reminder that He doesn't love us because we've done something great or because we've spent our lives in church and knows the ins and outs. I hope and pray that this message sinks in to me. It's not about me. It's about Him. If it were about me, well, it'd be really pathetic.
A post from Today At The Mission
This is just a snippet:
Truth And Beauty
You betray everything you thought you knew about Christianity by doing this kind of work. You meet that betrayal in the only way you can, at midnight in a garden of prayer, with the name of friend and a kiss upon your lips, while your boisterous friends lie sleeping in in the dew, but a few feet away from the Christ, the Messiah.
This is the Kingdom of God.