March 1, 2017

Nail Polish, Carpet, and Coming Clean: A Lent Reflection

Right in the middle of the threshold to the master bathroom on the blue carpet was a handprint put there by my third child. If he put there on purpose, I could not know. If it was an accident, it was of the serendipitous kind for it was perfect. There were no other spots around it just the impression of a palm and five fingers. It was the color of fresh blood but it wasn’t blood. It was nail polish which is weird because I haven’t been much into polishing nails unless someone else does it for me. I can’t imagine I left the Sinful Color out to tempt my little ball of energy, but I guess I did. He must have had quite a bit of alone time to paint a whole hand with that tiny brush. 

I didn’t dare touch the handprint on the carpet thinking trying to remove the stain would only make it worse. The thinking was faulty, of course, because it would have most likely made it a smear had I messed with it; it would have changed from the perfect little print of a five-year-old's hand to something altogether different. Most people would say a handprint or smudge of nail polish is enough reason to re-carpet a whole room. So yes, I concede that my thinking was correct after all since a smear would have been something I couldn’t live with. A handprint was another thing. So I left it and ran the vacuum cleaner over it year after year. Every morning I stepped on that small handprint as I began my day and again in the evenings as I made my way to bed after brushing my teeth. That little wave of the hand on the carpet became so familiar to me that I started to like it. It seemed to have always been there. It had grown on me.

Then one day, we had the carpet cleaned which is an oxymoron because carpet never comes clean. They just seem clean for a day or two before the soap left behind starts grabbing every bit of dirt they possibly can even the dust motes flying in the afternoon sunlight. I told the cleaner man not to worry over the handprint over by the door to the master bath, that it was nail polish and I had resigned to its presence. He looked at it lying there in the slanting light of the morning sun filtering through the big window over the whirlpool tub. He studied it while rubbing his chin and nodding. He spoke no words to give me any indication about the hand and its fate. He headed out to the van so he could bring the long snake-y tube into the house to strip the floors of their dirt and their stain guard.

I’ve learned the carpets should be cleaned on a Thursday or Friday so the dwellers of the house can leave for a long weekend while the carpets still smell like citrus and wet dog hair. It’s best that they have a few days to pretend. It will buy you time so you don’t have to face the inevitable. We only left for a while, spending the afternoon at Yancey Park, sucking on slushes from Sonic and getting our feet dirty before coming home to carpet we had paid to be clean for four hours. Every one of the beds sat on carpeting so there was no choice but to begin the process of reclaiming our stake of ground. I went to the master bedroom to stake my claim and noticed the carpet by the master bath. The hand was gone, removed by the sucking snake I supposed, or magic, I couldn’t be sure.

I felt sadness and regret which shouldn’t be the case when wrong things are made right. That seems out of sorts for with the way things ought to be, but it was true. I had started to love the stain on the carpet.

Today, on the first day of Lent, I am wondering what I have in my life that has become part of me that I see every day but really is a blemish on the landscape of my life? What kind of handprint is on me that isn’t supposed to be there but I’ve grown comfortable with or maybe even love? Am I willing to allow the Holy Spirit to examine me? Will I look for the evidence of sin in my life that I’ve stepped over day after day?

Confession of sin is never fun. Ridding ourselves of those things that are not pleasing to God is the path to freedom, but it isn’t without pain. Often, the God who loves us wounds us in order to heal us, or at the least, He presses in so He can stop our bleeding, that which is robbing us of life and energy to live in the Kingdom of God. That’s why today, many people will give up chocolate or caffeine as a way of suffering with Christ. They will decide for themselves without letting the Holy Spirit examine them. They won’t ask Jesus to set them back on the path of life— a life with eyes wide open, aware and hungry for the life of holiness that comes from living in the Presence of Jesus. Most of us don’t want our eyes opened to where we need to change. We like being blind to the realities of our sin. We are gifted at pointing out the imperfections in others, but we vacuum over our own without a thought of living a different story, a clean and holy one.

As I think back on that handprint on the carpet, even though I was sad at the moment that it was gone, I realized the cleaner man had done his job. He did it well. He made things right. I let him in the door and asked him to do it and that’s what He did. 

Jesus isn’t pushy. He doesn’t force himself on us. He’s not that kind of Friend. But He will get to work and do what only He can do---if we will let him. It is a process that we need to enter into often. The days of Lent are a time we can do that in community as a people of faith. We need to be practiced in the discipline of confession as we live in this sin-cursed world. What a beautiful opportunity we have to live in the fullness of life! God wants to give us more than we want for ourselves. That is something to think about because it's true. He is faithful to cleanse us and to give us right spirit within if we’ll open the door and let Him in.

My heart today is do just that---to let Him in for a spring clean. How about you?

January 1, 2017

My Weird One Word for 2017: Metabolize

It's that time again. We will fill our plates and our lives with something in the year ahead. Will it be something good? Where will invest our greatest effort? There are many offerings before us. What will put on our plates? 

The first thing we do at the end of a year and at the beginning of a new one is to plan how we are going get our physical bodies in shape. We think about a diet plan, which isn’t a bad idea except we tend to go to the extremes---high protein cave man or high carb bunny rabbit. As for exercise, we load up a running app, or at the least, a step counter, and gear up for a half marathon or a more realistic 5K. And, we are going to do yoga every. single. day. because that’s manageable and when we miss a couple of days we can say we meant the weekdays.

Some people are really quite successful in pulling off these lifestyle changes--- and then, there are the rest of us.

None of what we do to improve the health of our bodies is bad, but I’m concerned that we spend more time living toward longevity on the earth than we do living toward eternity in heaven.

A greater challenge for Christ-followers is to spend time thinking about the changes we can make so we feed and exercise our spiritual lives, our eternal lives that go on and on throughout eternity. We know what happens to our bodies if we don’t set our intentions regarding what we feed it and how we condition it. Shouldn’t we give the same type of intention to our spiritual lives? How will we increase in our faith and grow in our understanding of what it means to live in Christ? 

It’s one thing to intend to grow spiritually, but like caring for the body it won’t happen automatically. Somewhere along the way, we have bought into the lie that it happens without our participation. Caring for the body requires intentional action but so does caring for the spirit.

Jesus said, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:39 ESV)

There are losses that need to happen. Before we can say yes to new ways of living that benefit us spiritually, we have to let go of other things. We should consider the time and effort we put into living for things that are not eternal and make adjustments.

Last year my One Word was incandescent. I wrote about it a few weeks ago. It was a weird word that I didn’t readily accept. But as I consider my word in hindsight, I see God has shown His faithfulness to me. I began the year in a spiritually low place and God fanned the ember of my faith to a flame as I submitted to him. I had thought I would bring the glowing word into 2017 so I'd have more time to bask in its glow. But God impressed on me a new weird word for the coming year: metabolize.

Just like the word incandescent, I had to look it up. I understood it’s meaning generally, but I wanted to see how it might flesh out in my life in the coming year.

metabolism, n.  all the chemical processes that occur within a living organism, resulting in energy production (destructive metabolism) and growth (constructive metabolism).
Etymology: Gk metabole - change  source

My word is the verb form of the word metabolism. Verbs signify action. When we metabolize food, our bodies take it and turn it into useable substances that grow and sustain our physical bodies. It involves breaking down (losing) in order to gain something life-giving.

After three years of an intense spiritual season of life, I sense a change coming. A period of learning to lose has awakened in me new insight and energy for living in the next things God has for me. 

I think he has a similar plan for your life but he’s not going to hack into your iCalendar so He can get on your schedule. You must make time to be in his word to build your relationship with him. Do you want to know God better? Spend time with Him. Show up. Take what he has to offer and eat it. Do you want to pray a prayer that God always answers in the affirmative? Pray this: "Lord, I want to know you more."

It will take time. You may have to wait before you see the results. You don’t get physically fit in a day. It is the same for our spiritual lives. Part of growth is learning to trust Him with the outcome. We set our goal to compete in the half; God has the whole in mind for us.

A healthy body helps us achieve our spiritual goals. This is true. We can’t ignore the body. We are not to worship it either. Our bodies serve us, and in turn God and others, as we to submit to the Holy Spirit to do his transforming work in our minds as well. 
    “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:1-2 ESV)
I’m going to continue to take in the life God has for me in the coming year. I am confident that He has and will continue to feed me that which will be transformed into eternal treasures.  Spititual metabolism. 

There isn't a t-shirt waiting at the finish line as a prize; there’s a crown--- and the words, “Well done, well done” from the One who leads the way into this everlasting destiny.

Now that's a race worth running. I am hoping there are others who are intent on running this race with me. Will you be one of them?

November 20, 2016

In Which I Take a Selfie and Bare my Soul

Every morning when I walk to the sink to brush my teeth, I am greeted in the mirror by the reflection of Abraham Lincoln.

Honest Abe wasn’t much of a looker. Too bad I take after him. I’m kidding, of course, but they say all stories have a seed of truth.

The selfie culture of our day is interesting, is it not? It feels weird to take a selfie---at least it is for me. I can never get it “right” the first time. My gaze or my smile always needs tweaked. After several takes, an acceptable image will present itself. Then there are photo editors and filters at my disposal if I want to spiff myself up. With some effort, it’s possible to turn my Lincoln-look into an acceptable representation of me.

I think it would be fair to say that a selfie rarely rings true. The image offers little about the person in the photo.

We live in a culture of mask-wearers----online and in real life. What most of us don’t realize is we don’t keep our masks firmly in place. Our masks dissolve and our real countenances surface without our notice. It takes too much intention to keep our masked faces in place for long periods of time. If someone shares a surprise, a list of instructions, or a piece of gossip, our faces will show our reaction to the subject at hand. Even when there is no big revelation, we still lose the masks. Our faces mirror our emotions and our souls. 

People read our faces all the time. What many of us don’t realize is our faces are likely not being read in the way we think they are.

In a world of faces, we are strangers to others and even to ourselves. 
Keeping it real!
That’s painful news. It is painful for me because I’m aware of a couple of different occasions of late where I was told others didn’t feel liked by me. Granted, these were people who didn’t know me well or not at all. If you are wondering why I care? It’s because I love people. One of my core values is to make sure people I encounter don’t feel invisible (people I know and strangers). Maybe these people who read me as not liking them should have asked me what was up or taken more time before making a judgment? The truth is something about my countenance made them question my acceptance of them. I own it.

Psalm 42 is a song of despair that many have taken solace in (including me). The song raises a question to the soul that reveals the deep pain of having tears as “food day and night.”  From the depths, the questions are repeated twice in the eleven verses:
Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? (v. 5a, v.11a)
Like most of the songs of lament, the language of despair turns to a statement of hope at the end:
“Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him, The help of my countenance and my God.”(v. 11b)
The writer of Psalm 42 knew it is the face that reveals despair. Only when the soul is healed can the face be helped, and only God can mend the soul.

It is important to me to have a countenance that reflects my inside. Sometimes that will mean I look sad or anxious. I risk being read wrong by others when I go maskless out in the world. Sometimes others will read my face as a judgment on them. It has happened and it will happen again. 

I can’t do anything about what others think, but I can ask God to help my countenance realizing that what I need is help with my soul. He alone can search our hearts, but he needs us to participate once He reveals to us our heart condition.

We are all in process. God is not a genie god. He is a shaper of souls. This happens as he gives us His life and we begin the process of dying to ourselves and living in Him. We begin the process of transformation as we learn, on the way, how to walk according to the Spirit. This is an intentional process that takes time.  As our lives in Christ grow, as we mature in our faith, we are changed from the inside out and it shows on our faces.

This should be true for us when circumstances beg for celebration as much as in times of despair. Unfortunately, in our cynical culture we are so numb and disconnected from our inner life, it is rare even for Christians to have joy written on their faces----and I confess this would include me.

Sometimes those little moments of celebration come and oh, how sweet they are. I shared with a friend at church some beautiful things the Lord was doing in my life. Her face lit up and her eyes welled with tears of joy. Her love and happiness for me showed all over her face. It was a beautiful gift. 

One challenge I’m giving myself (again) is to see people as God sees them even if their faces reveal some kind of hard truth. I want to laugh and I want to cry. I don't want to hide. When others look at me, I want them to see my soul.

I won't wallow when I fail to love people well. I will grieve for a bit, ask forgiveness if it seems right, and move on. I will go easy on those who judge me harshly and I will go easy on myself. I will ask the Lord to help my countenance, to shape my inside so my outside looks like Him...

and not so much like Abraham Lincoln.

How is your soul? What would I see right now if read your face?

November 16, 2016

A Better Country

I have a bent toward independence, but I'm not proud of it. It has limited me in many ways and kept me at an arm's length from most people. When I was young, I had a fierce desire to be right. I used words as weapons in ways that I’m sure offended and pierced others. I say I did this, but the truth is I’ve done it when I was older. Someone talks out of two sides of their mouth and I’m on it. 

I’ve felt a deep regret and conviction about the need to change, measure my words and grow in relationships. I am not good alone. I need others to help me see my blind spots.  I could use the Holy Spirit as my excuse for limiting the influence of others in my life, telling myself I only need his help and direction, but that would not be biblical. “It is not good for man to be alone.”

As I watch, listen to, and read the media of the day (both traditional and social), it’s made me feel alone on the earth. Of course, I am not alone but I do feel loneliness. I feel other than, peculiar, alien. I fight a human need (at least, that’s where I think it originates) to find someone in which I can align myself and I’ve found myself thinking about a question I’ve pondered over the years.

In times of sadness or uncertainty, I've wondered why God doesn’t just whisk us away to heaven when He saves us. Why does He promise us a better country and leave us to walk the sin-stained dirt of this earth? 

I am sure there may be many theological answers to my question, but something I’m seeing in the Scriptures is telling me the question may not be valid.  

Colossians 1:13 says I was rescued “from the domain of darkness, and transferred… to the kingdom of His beloved Son…” God did this for me in mercy and grace as I believed in Him and placed my faith in his provision for me through the death and resurrection of Jesus.

Before the election, I was teaching a passage out Ephesians when I asked those listening to consider what a mistake it was for the church to "hitch it’s wagon" to the government because when the government fails people, the people it fails blame the God the church proclaims---guilt by association.

When preachers took to the Internet telling people how to vote, by implication and overtly, it made me cringe. Why did they want to get tangled up in politics? They have a bigger race to run. Where were their eyes? By being endorsers, they joined the media in the clamor in the world. (Eph. 4:17-32)

I’m not saying Christians shouldn’t vote prayerfully and live as good citizens. What I am saying is that we need to realize what we are signing up for when we align ourselves with a tribe. Inevitably, on the earth, tribes set themselves up against other tribes---they feel the need to defend their tribal identity with words, actions, or both.

God doesn’t intend for followers of Christ to be passive in the culture, but I do believe that those in Christ will spread the fragrance of Christ in the midst of the culture. How this is lived out is nuanced in the lives of each Christian based on their gifting and the place in the world where they live and have influence. The fragrance of Christ never has the stench of death. If it does, then it isn’t Jesus that is being spread. (2 Cor. 2:15-17)

Even as we live our lives in Christ in the different contexts around the world, the truth is our true citizenship is in the kingdom of God.  

God’s kingdom never gets wonky like the governments in this world. When we see people doing what sinful people do, the people whose citizenship is in the kingdom of God remember the better country. They recognize the promises of God are eternal, some of them to be fulfilled in the future. They live for, and in light of the promises of God. They live with true vision.
“Each one of these people of faith died not yet having in hand what was promised, but still believing. How did they do it? They saw it way off in the distance, waved their greeting, and accepted the fact that they were transients in this world. People who live this way make it plain that they are looking for their true home. If they were homesick for the old country, they could have gone back any time they wanted. But they were after a far better country than that—heaven country. You can see why God is so proud of them, and has a City waiting for them.” (Paraphrase of Hebrews 11:13-16, Eugene Peterson, The Message)

Why am I hopeful on this day? 

I’m hopeful because I see the “better country.” I see not because I’m special or intelligent or super-spiritual. I see because of the grace of God given to me and because of the Spirit of God alive in me. It’s the only explanation I have. 

I admit I have blind spots. There is no way that I can pull together all the factors that are in play in the political and cultural landscape of the country where I live. That truth makes it that much easier to fix my eyes on Jesus who is the Truth. I live in an unshakable kingdom. (Heb. 12:2; 26-28)

This afternoon, I walked the streets of the neighborhood, prayed for my neighbors, cooked a pot of soup, did the laundry and I looked with the eyes of my soul toward the better country. I was at peace. I won’t be joining a tribe. I will love people right where I am because the kingdom of God is here; it is now. (Luke 17:20-21)

November 6, 2016

A November Confession about My One Word for 2016

Back in January, my pastor asked our congregation if anyone had chosen their One Word for the year. He suggested a  move away from making New Year’s resolutions toward choosing one word as a focus for the year. A few shared their words as the mike passed around the room. I had my word, but I didn’t share it. 

I was reading last November when the Holy Spirit pricked my heart. A word lifted off the page and caught my attention. Over the next few weeks, I saw this word pass in front of my eyes several more times before I began to understand it would be my new "one word." I hoped I had misunderstood. I didn’t like it. I wasn’t completely sure what it meant and it had too many syllables. I wanted a word rich with biblical meaning with lots of references that I could look up in the Psalms. My word wasn’t even in the Bible.

The word was incandescent. 

If I had spoken it aloud in that church service, I wonder how many people would have rolled their eyes back into their head? I wouldn’t have blamed them. Who picks a word like incandescent to be their One Word? What did it even mean except that it described a type of light bulb? Those people, on the cusp of a new year, would have thought, “That poor lady needs to get a life.”

I kept my mouth shut and didn’t give anyone the opportunity to think any of those things. Others said their words---trust, hope, and grace---while I said a silent prayer for the Lord to give me the strength to trust Him with my weird word. 

Besides my one word, the other secret I was keeping was the doleful truth that my prayer was feeble; my faith was weak.

In the days before Christmas, I had awakened in the night and was overcome with doubt. It came out of nowhere and made my stomach ache. I considered in the darkness if everything I had ever believed, all that I had built my life around, my faith, was a figment of my imagination. Three years of waiting, of being sidelined by God from a place in leadership in ministry had me questioning purpose and significance. I came into the middle of my life thinking life would expand. Instead, it had narrowed as my kids winged away into the world and my parents dealt with health issues. I had tried to make some sort of writing life when a writer’s block fell around me surrounding me like a fortress.

I hate doubt. It tastes like eating soap. I told myself to get my act together. I tried to remember all the times the Lord had come for me, times when I was in sin or was sick, in times of loss and betrayal, when I was absolutely broken. I knew I couldn’t fix my doubt. I had already lived the story of trying to fix myself. No, this heart-sickness was too much for me. I didn’t give God a dare, but He would have to prove himself real. I wouldn’t walk away. Instead of freaking out, I would wait.

I did have my word simmering on the back burner, the crazy word that I had not yet looked up on “the Google.”  The dregs of Christmas lay about the living room when I opened up the laptop and typed the word incandescent into the search engine.
incandescent (s = adj.all) candent - emitting light as a result of being heated; "an incandescent bulb" Derived form noun incandescence1 incandescent (s = adj.all) - characterized by ardent emotion or intensity or brilliance; "an incandescent performance" (

My heart began to flicker with a little flame of hope.

I heard a preacher say one time that doubt is evidence of faith. I remembered the chill of last winter and I was comforted. You cannot doubt what you do not believe. Those without faith cannot doubt.

It’s been the warmest autumn I ever remember and the flame in my heart is burning hot. The Wind of the Spirit has passed my way again. 

“a bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not quench,
until he brings justice to victory;  
(Jesus in Matt 12:20, quoting from Isaiah 43 )

This is one of the many things I love about Jesus. He is not alarmed by the “smoldering wick” of our faith. When He sees our flame losing its heat, He is not disappointed or angry at us. He will not throw a bucket of water over our uncertainty and walk away.

Jesus is committed to his children. He always has been. He comes to our little smoldering coal of a heart and blows his love over us like whisper. 

He fanned my smoldering wick to flame because I was willing to sit in the discomfort of my emotional pain. I didn’t run from it. I didn’t try to make it better with food or exercise, shopping, or media binging. I put one foot in front of the other and lived in the rhythms of faith I had built over a lifetime. 

To my surprise and joy 2016 has been a year of great spiritual growth for me. The fire of faith within me is burning hot. I am more in love with Jesus, and more awake to his work in my life. I’m living with more trust that God is working sovereignly in all things whether I see it or not.

It’s November again and I’m paying attention, anticipating a new word to be revealed for next year.  I admit it won’t be easy to leave the word incandescent behind. Maybe I won’t... 

Are you anticipating your word? Do you have a One Word story?   
I would love to hear about it. What was your One Word for 2016?

October 24, 2016

You, Me & the Sea

We are a week away from time falling back so my feet hit the floor this morning in darkness. I slipped on my robe and walked in my rut to the kitchen, pulled one of the porcelain mugs from the middle drawer of the dishwasher because I’m partial to its thin rim with the slight curve perfect for sipping the beans roasted dark but not burned. I think about how heat changes things, makes them hard and beautiful, like the white clay that made my cup, or the bitter and sweet ground beans surrendered yet again to being scorched for the benefit of others.

Yesterday, after church I made some slaw for supper then slipped out to the porch with my books. It was the Sabbath and I was resting on the wicker couch on a golden autumn afternoon. I turned on music— movie scores and opened Mary Oliver’s new book, a collection of essays, a book titled, Upstream. It wasn’t long until I was in tears. I swallowed them, tasted their salt, accepted that swallowing tears always makes me thirsty.

It’s taken a lifetime to accept who I am rather than who I wish I was. Like so many, I thought I might be able to minimize the depraved state I am in—apart from Jesus. I think this is the deceiver’s foremost lie— that we aren’t that bad. When we believe his twist on truth, the bible says we choose disobedience, rebellion, which puts us under the wrath of God (Ephesians 2:1-3). But there is something worse than just being under God’s wrath as crazy as that sounds. To believe the twisted thought that we are bad, but not that bad, keeps us from desiring the life God has for us in Jesus.  “We are half-hearted creatures,” writes C.S. Lewis in the “Weight of Glory”, “fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by an offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” 

We ate leftover red beans and the slaw for supper. Warm banana pudding filled bowls for dessert, but the bananas weren’t ripe. They could have stood a few more days sitting on the counter coming into their own, sweeter, just before death.

Mary Oliver ponders the creative life as the third way of life, what seems to the world a reckless way of living—which she hopes it is. Reluctantly, I believe she’s onto something. The creatives gather along the edges of life, gather the chaos into something beautiful. It seems reckless to those who are ordering their lives around productivity—making the world go ‘round. It seems frivolous to be picking wildflower bouquets along the road and arranging them in a minnow bucket.

“The clock is still ticking…Every day, twelve little bins in which to order disorderly life, and even more disorderly thought.” (Mary Oliver, Upstream)

 We are living in time, but living for eternity.

Ray Stedman said the third way of life is that of a Christian who is not conformed to this world. We can reject conforming to the patterns in the world, refusing to wear the clothes of the world and using its words, resist fitting in, if you will. We can reject the culture’s magnetism but backing away from the world, we Christians, with intention, are tempted to form our own tribe with its own cultural norms, its own outer garb, and to speak in a language "outsiders" can not translate easily. As a Christian and a creative, I know this tension. We live between two worlds.

“Genuine Christians belong to neither of the extremes which are always present in society. They have to contrast with both. And therefore they get attacked from both sides, if they are really standing where Christ stands. One of the indications of whether your Christianity is genuine or not is whether you do get attacked from both sides, because Christianity is a third way of life.” (, Ephesians 2:1-3, The Human Dilemma) 

We are not to be creators of chaos. A Christian creative is never called to make chaos. We are called to set chaos right—to be reconcilers. This reflects the heart of the One who has called us to this third life, this vocation with eternal dividends.

To stir up the chaos, to gather it for the purpose of disseminating it, is the work of the enemy of the eternal soul. It is the kind of creative activity that fills the air, the sin-polluted air of the world’s rulers, who lust to keep the sons of man under the judgment of God’s wrath.

Living in the chaos without hope is torturous. So much of the world knows this pain well. The good news is Hope sits in the wings ready to take flight if we’ll accept and be real about our depravity---our need; if we'll receive God’s grace. Pride says don’t do it—you’ll give up your options, you’ll lose your life.

Jesus said, “Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it.” (Luke 17:33)

We cannot grab hold of what will preserve our lives if we don’t let go of our desire to save ourselves— which is, of course, the biggest lie of all. We must give up our membership in the fellowship of the walking dead.

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:1-6)
“But God…in mercy…in love…even when we were dead…raised us up with him and seated us with him…” This is our reversal of fortunes, but I’m afraid the words have become too familiar that we scant take notice. What a shame, for they hold the “weight of glory,” our hope, seated with Christ now and for all of eternity.

A friend asked me in a text why I thought Jesus saved us? Was it because He wanted us to love him and follow him? She’s been feeling the fire, the in-between with its pain and its gifts.

My reply was simple, an attempt to reconcile the chaos: “He loved and saved us because He wanted us to be able to sit next to Him ….” 

We should take him up on the offer, take our seat. It’s was costly, but it's free. I've always loved a holiday at the sea.

Linking with Jennifer Dukes Lee's Community.

October 16, 2016

Why I'm not Surprised and Why You shouldn’t be Either

I don’t want to be one of those prophets who shouts, “Peace, peace!” when there is no peace, but I wonder at how many Christians have become unglued because times are uncertain.

“I notice that the Bible gives a decidedly unromantic picture of life on earth. God doesn’t censor the soul-raw moments of His best men (and women). He refuses to airbrush fear, despair, failure, and discouragement. I wonder if He included these spiritually X-rated parts to deflower my distorted picture of what it means to walk with Him.” (Jean Fleming, Pursue the Intentional Life, italics mine)

I’ve been reading what people are saying on their social feeds about the election. I have been reading their words realizing there are motivations behind the words. 

I see a lot of despair, some discouragement, and a whole load of fear. 

The words from one of the Apostle Peter’s letters came to mind as I considered the pleas for right thinking and the shame talk running through the feeds and comment threads, many of them directed to Christians by Christians.

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And,

“If it is hard for the righteous to be saved,
what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”
(1 Peter 4:12-18)

It’s interesting that in the Gospels Peter is portrayed as the one who wanted things to be a certain way (under God) and seemed intent on going down fighting when circumstances were contrary to his expectation. He wasn’t into hearing anything about Jesus dying. He didn’t want Jesus to wash his feet. He cut off the soldier’s ear when they came to arrest Jesus in the garden. Then he lurked around feeling sorry for himself and denying his association with Jesus when things turned grim. 

It’s a wonder that Peter didn’t jump ship altogether. There was something in him that believed there would be a reversal of fortunes and he was going to be the first in line when things turned toward his point of view. Peter had hope.

I think all of us have been like Peter at one time or another in our walk of faith.

The reversal of fortunes happened, of course, but it looked nothing like Peter had envisioned the few years before when the disciple laid down his fishing nets and followed after the unorthodox rabbi, who in his mind, was going to set things straight for the nation of Israel.

I wonder exactly when it was that Peter decided to live by faith?

Was it a morning after the resurrection when Peter and his buddies had fished in the dark and caught nothing? Was it after the sun rose on their discouragement when Jesus filled their nets?

Was it after the breakfast Jesus’ cooked for the fishermen when he pulled him aside and asked Peter if he loved him---three times? Was that the day Peter let go of his need for a painless path through life?

Jesus told Peter the truth-- that things were going to be difficult:

“Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go." (John 21:18)

I picture the scene as emotionally charged. I imagine Peter’s mouth falling open with Jesus’ forthright declaration about the future of his disciple. The reality hangs in the air for a pregnant pause, and then Jesus says, “Follow me.” (v. 19)

If you read the account in John 21, you will see that Peter doesn’t accept his lot without protest. He turns around and points at John and says, “What about him?” (v. 21)

Peter seems so familiar.

By the time he writes the words in what the Bible numbers his first epistle, he has grown up in his faith. He has matured. He’s no longer overtaken by circumstances.

Instead of being surprised by the “fiery trials,” Peter has these admonitions:
  • rejoice that you are sharing in Christ’s suffering (that’s a big turn-around since his night of denials)
  • consider insults as blessings (but don’t bring them on  because you are a meddler)
  • praise God for suffering when it is because you bear the name of Christ
  • remember God’s judgment doesn’t begin with the pagan but with those who are in the household of God
  • have compassion for those living without Christ (and remember they are reading your comments too)

And then this, the last verse in 1 Peter 4:

 “So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.” (v. 19)

It doesn’t say be right.

Peter had come a long way since that day on the dusty road when he answered Jesus’ revelation of His death and resurrection with these words,

"Never, Lord!" ... "This shall never happen to you!" (Matthew 16:22)

It is time to let go of fear and grab hold of faith, to look up rather than around.The mission has not changed. The News is still good and we should live in light of it.

These are days of opportunity to grow up in Christ, to let the truth of the Bible speak into our lives and give us hope. He is the anchor for our soul in troubled times.