Thursday, April 19, 2012
The quiet here is delicious. I have warm coffee, a new chair to sit comfortably in, an infrared heater whirring in the background. It is absolutely blissful. No television, no pull of the laundry room, no hiding my head from the vacuuming that needs done. Today I get to breathe in the creative aromas of fresh wood, warm sunshine and brewed coffee. I am fueled.
It's funny. So many nights I would gaze out the back door and wish I could come out here and turn on the lights and sit to write out my thoughts. Today when I got here, I sit unencumbered by other obligations and I am blocked. Sort of. I mean, when you have such incredible expectations, you talk yourself into so many things that will happen "when." When is now, and I am realizing it will all have to be reassessed and reevaluated and refocused. Nothing worth doing ever seems to come easy.
When I was pregnant with Quincy I would sit in my office at work and dream about all the things I would get done once I was able to stay home with my baby. (I hear you laughing... Do you really think rolling around on the floor is necessary?) I quickly realized once she was born that I had been incredibly naive. I had manufactured this dream that was instantly shattered by reality. It was a wonderful reality (mostly, if you can overlook baby poop), but it was not what I had created in my mind. My plans had to change. I had to change. And I had to realize that it was all going to be tremendously hard work.
That is what I am coming to terms with now, with this new "baby." It is glorious, I am so very grateful and I am fully aware now I have lots of work to do. I have the tools, the motivation and the support. It is time to rid myself of the excuses, to find out what I deem time stealers (goodbye, reality TV) and really start to focus in on what God is asking of me.
I am overwhelmed. That I have such a beautiful place to work, that I have the unswerving (so far) support of my family, that God has allowed it all to come to pass without much stress... If I sit here and think about it too long I will become terrified. I don't deserve it, you know? But then, grace is like that. And this is definitely a grace-gift from my Father.
Be blessed today! I am.
Friday, April 13, 2012
1. I will never be done.
2. I will always be corrupt.
3. I can choose
4. God will never stop loving me
5. Christ is God, not a good man or a teacher or a philosopher
6. Agnostics need proof
7. Atheists are blind
8. All paths do not lead to God
9. My hair will not cooperate because I am going to church
10. People are wonderful and rotten all in the same breath
11. Government was set up to be a picture of the Christ relationship (FAIL)
12. You can be a Christian and a Liberal
13. You can be a Christian and a Conservative
14. You can be a Christian and (insert political affiliation here...)
15. Kids get it so much quicker
16. Christians can be the meanest folks you will ever meet.
17. I will be misunderstood
18. Being a Christian is hard
19. Love is the biggest deal EVER!
20. God made everything, even spiders... (shudder)
21. Babies are proof He loves us.
22. I have a purpose, even when I am not sure what the hell that is
23. Marriage is a gift from God, not a trial, no matter how much I think differently...
24. We are called to love everyone (even teenagers...)
25. God wants us to live in the moment, not the future or the past.
26. Our plans don't mean squat in the big picture
27. Obedience is more important than ability
28. When I need it most and expect it least, God will send me the encouragement I am desperate for
29. God comes to us on tiny feet, and big feet, and feet that look a lot like in-laws...
30. Leave the judging up to God, unless you want your enemy in charge of your justice...
31. Satan has been using the same old tricks since the Garden to get people to sin. Wise up!
32. Your neighbor is whoever God says it is - And God says it is everyone!
33. Excuses are like butt-cracks, everyone has one, and no one is particularly interested in yours! (God doesn't like excuses... )
34. The reason you do something is of little consequence unless that reason is God
35. Your iPhone can be a bible with the right app
36. You are never done learning about God
37. Church isn't just for religious fanatics.
38. Christians don't always look like Christians should look (however that is...)
39. Never assume you know someone's story
40. Always assume you don't have an integral piece of the puzzle
41. Gossip is a treacherous beast that will devour your heart and steal your kindness.
42. Speaking up for Christ is often a lonely endeavor
43. Christ spoke for me on the cross when He said, "Forgive them, Father. They don't know what they are doing."
44. When in a room full of Angry Christians, don't forget your gun!
45. God is not subject to linear time.
46. Interpreting Revelations is folly and will hurt your brain... Seriously.
47. When God says, "You cannot know the answer," there will always be some clown who says he's figured it out!
48. Be ready for Christ at all times - He comes like a thief in the night... or your mother in law when your house is dirty!
49. Hateful people need Christ most, and most of us are hateful
50. Paul killed thousands of Christians before he himself was threatened by his own peers with death for becoming one.
51. God made a place for Himself in everyone's heart. It is filled only by Him.
52. Being a Christian doesn't mean wealth, health and ease.
53. Christians get sick
54. Christians die
55. Life is not fair but God is. Even when we don't see it.
56. Justice isn't something to hope for. Grace is.
57. When you think you are right, most likely that is when you couldn't be more wrong.
58. If someone knocks, open the door.
59. Entertain guests as if you were setting the table for Christ.
60. Clean the toilet, type the letters, do all jobs you have as if God were your foreman
61. You are in control of nothing.
62. Everything good is a gift from God, no matter how much you think it would have happened anyway.
63. Prayer works. Even when the answer is no
64. God uses everyday people to do His work. You are no exception, step up!
65. God provides our every need. (Not our want, our need)
66. Money is not the root of all evil, love of money is
67. Humility is sexy
68. Pride is a bastard.
69. People can change
70. Grace cannot be earned or it wouldn't be grace
71. Forgive your enemies, hating them only hurts you. They are often oblivious you hate them anyway
72. Bitterness in ones heart spreads like thistle in a pasture.
73. Being a Christian will not change your perspective, just your destination
74. Change your perspective anyway
75. Being righteous is obnoxious
76. Idols are bad - Even Tebow knows that
77. If what you are doing is causing someone to misunderstand what being a Christian is about, STOP IT! Your freedom is not the most important thing...Their salvation is.
78. Loving others as much as we love ourselves is the point of it all
79. Before I criticize my fellow Christian, I need to take a look in the mirror.
80. Keep confidences confidential
81. Pray first, speak last
82. When in doubt about what to say, say nothing instead.
83. Honesty is the best policy
84. Cruelty is not honesty
85. Ask yourself is it necessary, beneficial and kind before you say anything. If you cannot say yes to all of those, SHUT UP
86. Respect your Mother and Father.
87. Don't provoke your kids
88. Your word is only as good as your follow through.
89. Say you are sorry and you are wrong more than you accept apologies from others.
90. Nothing in excess is good.
91. Chocolate is a God-thing
92. When God calls you to a task, answer.
93. Jesus is excited about talking with me.
94. Be charitable instead of unselfish
95. When you have that unexplained urge talk to that stranger in line, do it. You just don't know what God might have planned...
96. You are a person of influence to someone.
97. God misses you when you don't come around
98. Drop everything to visit your Grandmother one more time
99. Regret is useless. Start fresh each day, God says so!
100. God longs to give us peace that passes understanding. Pursue Peace at all times!
Wednesday, April 11, 2012
"Mom?'" My teenage daughter wanted to talk to me... Before I skipped a step and started dancing about the room I took a chill pill and a deep breath. Don't move too fast - She might change her mind.
"Yeah?" I answered nonchalantly (I hoped).
"Do you know any false Christians?"
As usual, her question hit me like a sucker punch from behind. False Christians? Was I even equipped to answer that? It was too late to even make like I had all the answers. She is a teen now and I am arguably the stupidest person on the planet. I better not squander this opportunity to make at least some sense on the subject. I spit my Bubba-teeth out for this one...
"I guess my first question is: what do you mean by false Christians?"
"You know, like there are these kids at my school..."
She went on to describe a Christian club at school that has gotten into the habit of being exclusive with its membership. They mean well, but in their desire to be Godly they shut out kids who are on the edge, who don't look the part, sound the part and can be swayed into behaving badly because it's a natural part of just being a teen. That rebellious, "Don't tell me what to do or how to act" kind of reaction. Would I call them false Christians? No. In fact, I am certain that their love and devotion to Christ is what drives them to make silly claims and decisions about their fellow students. Unfortunately, I know quite a few of these folks in my adult life. I am one.
The conversation with my daughter got me thinking about my own perspective and how it looks to the outside world. I have often told my kids, no matter how big or old my body is, I make the same silly decisions as an adult that a teenager, grade-schooler, or even toddler would. At my core, I am still God's child, and sometimes that comes with an immature attitude.
The kids my daughter was referring to have only part of the equation as do some adults in the same situation. Christ does call us to associate with our fellow Christians regularly, going to church, meeting in study and pursuit of Christ-knowledge, getting together to help out our community by building houses, cleaning up our neighborhoods, etc. He wants us associating with each other to make us stronger, keep us accountable and enlightening us to differing perspectives within our circle of close friends. What He doesn't want is for us to do is decide that only our circle will do. Christ wants us to be open, soft, pliable to the plight of others. Christ wants us to reach out to those not in our comfort zone. If we truly love Him as we should, we cannot be tainted by unbelief or somehow lose our salvation because we kept company with someone who doesn't live the way we do.
Christ Himself associated with some pretty rough characters. He was found with prostitutes, tax collectors, lepers and, at the end, even outright criminals. Christ didn't exclude them. He alone understood that the roughest of folk can come to Him (if even at the last moment) and believe in the need for their own salvation. Not that I am saying we should head out into the inner cities and start sleeping in the streets or put ourselves into obviously dangerous situations. What I am saying is don't make an assumption based on race, creed, looks, clothing, sexual orientation or music choice that the person sitting next to you doesn't want or need or even already love the Lord. You cannot pretend to know the intent of someone else, unless they outright tell you so. You cannot make an assumption based on the outward appearance when God alone is the one who looks into the core of man to determine their heart condition. Don't even try. It will only hurt you in the end. It will out you as one with the more desperate need of forgiveness.
See, the Judgement Seat has room for only one butt, and it is God's. When we try to crowd in there, asking the Creator of Heaven and Earth to scooch over, we make a mockery of the matchless grace He sent to us in the form of his dying, bleeding, bludgeoned Son. He doesn't need our help. He already knows everything He needs to know about our neighbor, our pastor, the gay couple down the street, and ME. Yes, He knows all about me and my issues. The times I have been exclusive, hateful, judgmental, self-righteous and spiteful. All of it. So I have to be very careful when I start tossing around all those pretty polished stones in my house full of glass... I could break a window!
The Parisees thought that they could trip up Christ on this subject. They figured no guy could be this good, except of course themselves... So they set out to ask Him a "stumper", as it were. One of them very smugly approached Jesus as he was teaching one afternoon and asked of all the things that He was preaching, which one would get him eternal life? Jesus turned the tables and asked the "Scholar" what he thought the answer was. In Matthew, Chapter 10 the imposter student replied, "That you love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and muscle and intelligence - and that you love your neighbor as well as you do yourself." (MSG) Jesus of course commends this answer, as it is correct. (I myself wonder if our Savior isn't imbued with a bit of heavenly sarcasm here, but that could just be me...)
Now the "student" attempts the real trickery. In Verse 29 he pipes up, "And just how would you define 'neighbor'?" I can almost hear the sneer in his voice and the expectant hush that fell over that crowd. They all turn to watch as Jesus settles in for one of the most memorable and universal examples of just what "neighbor" really means in a biblical sense. He launches into the tale of the Good Samaritan. Now I could go into a complete history lesson here on how antagonistic the relationship between Jew and Samaritan was. I could give you all the pat answers to the reality of what Christ was pointing at. Do I need to? I don't think so.
What I will say on the subject is this. First: read the chapter for yourself, (Matthew 10:30-37) and make yourself the Samaritan and the man who was robbed a person that you are currently having some very big difficulties with or a general group you have strong opinions about. Really test yourself here. If you think all murderers should go to Hell, put them in the man's place. If you are certain that all homosexuals are doomed to an unforgiven life, stick them there. Second, realize that you are probably not the Samaritan, but one of those guys who walked by and did nothing. Sting a little? It should. It stung me... Now, after you are fully embarrassed by what side you really fall down on, understand that God wants us to step out of the seat of judgement and trust that He knows each persons heart better than we do. Trust that He has that part all handled and our only command from the very beginning has been to simply love His creations. That included all of this creatures. It means that you are not to decide that God doesn't love the murderer, the thief, the homosexual, the liar, the cheat... It means that you are to decide that He does, because that alone is true. We have two directives from Christ's mouth: Love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and body and love our Neighbor as ourself.
Love 'em as if your whole being and happiness depended on it, because it does. If you want God to be merciful with you, be merciful with others. If you want God to forgive you, first forgive your brother. Then forgive your enemy. Then pray for them both to be blessed by God. (Crap... I hate it when God does this. This hurts.)
Realize that truly loving others as we love ourselves means that we must juxtapose ourselves into the seat of the defendant, not the prosecutor. It isn't our job to make those decisions. Don't be a door-mat - Christ wasn't. Just realize that under the green hair and the leather jacket is someone's daughter or son (is that a boy or a girl???) and that most definitely God loves them just as much as He loves you. After all, once you quit staring at their outsides, if you could remove the weird makeup or the odd choice of bedfellows, you may just discover they are a lot like you. And me. Some of the roughest treatment of innocent men has been handed down by those who profess to love God. Just ask Jesus. He'll show you with His own Hands.
Monday, April 2, 2012
Wednesday afternoon was much like any other afternoon. I was working (when am I not?) and I was running errands and I was alarmingly happy. Weirdly happy. The MegaMillions drawing was that night... In my head I was at peace. My bills were paid, my children were set up for college and a successful start at life, my entire family was mortgage free, I had secretly gifted money to those in dire need... It was a very good day. I had a peace about me that I simply couldn't explain.
And then it hit me.
God hit me. I was walking around the corner of the show barn and in a voice, recognizable and as clear as a Jamaican sea, I heard, "That's peace, My Peace - that's how it feels. Now you have no more excuses, I want you to get there - without the money."
Instantly I knew that there wasn't a chance in hell I would be winning any of that jackpot. (Not like getting struck by lightening twice on the same day would have happened either... Still) I knew that I had been given a gift that not even money could purchase. I had been given a taste of what living the peace-filled life was like. That was it. Peace that it was all taken care of, nothing left undone, everything accounted for - because it is.
When Christ becomes your center, when you truly give yourself over to Him and He is the rock on which you build your life, it's all taken care of. You can rest that He will care for you and provide for you and be everything you will ever need because you are His. His promise to never leave you nor forsake you (Deut 31:8), His promise to care for you as He cares for the birds of the air (Mat 26-34), they are all realities that we toss aside when we don't see it His way - and we rarely see it His way (Isa 55:8)...
"Awesome, Stacey. I am about to lose my house. I can't buy groceries or dog food. Should I just log in a prayer to God and He will magically provide all of these things?" Actually, yes, you should. Can you expect a check from the Almighty, address 1 Heavenly Ave., to fall from the sky into your bank account? Probably not. But when you open your mouth and profess your desperation to God, you just never know what the outcome will be.
The provision may not look like you think it should. You may indeed lose that house, but a friend may offer you shelter. You may open your door to a church fellow with a bag of groceries and food for your animals. Often our God uses others to do His work so that we can see that others care and that ultimately, God is indeed listening.
When you share the desperate need you have with fellow followers, those who "have" are required by God to step up and help provide for you. It isn't meant to be demeaning, although a good dose of humility is usually very helpful for our prideful hearts. Christian people often are just waiting to step up and be the super hero you need. Who are you to deprive them of their God given command? Don't turn them away because of your own pride. Don't look at God's gift of provision, whether it is a listening ear, a hug or physical goods, and turn up your nose because it isn't cold, hard cash. Accept that God's people are willing and obedient enough to do what others only talk about and provide as God has directed them to in ways only He can author.
"I worry that I am a burden to my friends, that somehow I will break them and they won't want to help me any more." FAT CHANCE! You know what? If I am called to minister to you, in any way God has asked, not only can't you break me but you better not step in my way. I am being obedient to God - not to you. I know that sounds harsh, but the fact is to get to me - to even be able to touch me - you have to get through Christ first. I know you can't break Him! So how on earth can you break me if I am doing His will? The answer is, you can't.
Joining God's community is a lot like winning the lotto. You exchange almost nothing for a ticket into a family of believers that has pledged to care for you as one of their own. God Himself has promised you that VIP kind of elevated status, sitting with His Son at a table full of bounty! You cannot be bankrupt by Satan any more. You belong to Christ and His gated community. You are safe in His hands.
So I didn't win the MegaMillions. That's ok. I won so much more! I was given a palpable example of what God's MegaMillions is - PEACE. I now have a daunting task ahead of me: I need to learn to capture that peace no matter what the world is doing around me. See the world would like you to think that only money can give you security, peace and happiness. It is a lie. True peace is unshakeable. True peace cannot be spent away. True peace is available to you, even if you didn't have the buck to buy a ticket, because it is free. All you have to do is open your hand and receive it.
Let me be very clear about what God's lotto is NOT. It is not getting everything you want, your way, every time. It is not fancy cars, big houses and perfect health because you have faith. It is not a life without pain, trials and stormy seas. Even Christ is crystal clear on this: "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." (John 16:33 NIV) He promises that we will have trouble, but He also says we can rest in the fact that nothing has defeated Him. He cannot be defeated except by His own choice, and he already chose you!
Take a deep breath today. Live this hour as if you had won the MegaMillions and everything you ever wanted was right around the corner. When you get a good taste of what that feels like, savor it. That is the peace God wants you to hang your hat on, only without the cash. Trust that God will provide your every need, no matter how overwhelming or how minute, and that He will walk with you every step of the way, because that is exactly what He is doing!