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Archive for June, 2015

Often times sarcasm is said to be the comedic form of delivering a hateful or negative message to the recipient.

When two of the most sarcastic people I know (or at least the two people who talk about sarcasm and sass the most) got serious for one moment, awkwardness dampened the air.

Was it meant to be hurtful? Not necessarily. She was calling him out in what seemed, to her, an offensive belittling of labels. To him, it was a joke, shared among friends and made for a good story to share among the intimate group.

So are we meant to keep quiet when we feel unsettled by someone’s words or story? No.

God makes it known to us when we are not listening, when we fail to obey His decrees, and when we live by our own desires.

“Where is your brother Abel?” God asked of Cain. To which Cain foolishly responded, “I don’t know, am I my brother’s keeper?” as if God had not seen his actions.

Romans 12:3-5:

Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us. Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.

Paul continues to describe this belonging to one another in Galatians 6:1-5:

Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.  Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.  But each one must examine his own work, and then he will have reason for boasting in regard to himself alone, and not in regard to another.  For each one will bear his own load.

I know that when I am misunderstood, my voice raises as I attempt to overcome the rebuke coming from the recipient of the partial message. In my head, I tell my tongue “stop speaking so viciously you pompous fool,” and yet, the words overwhelm me when silence is due.

My over-speaking someone to clarify, to promote myself…this is my lapse of temptation, my guilt of failure to “restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness.”  It is also what I witnessed today, and later, in reaction, fell to myself.

So we pick up our crosses and seek redemption, first with Christ in our own lives, and then in our relationships with Christ and one another.

Preferably, the conversation would have been approached with gentleness from the start and with awareness of the audience, Matthew 18:15-17:

If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother.  But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed.  If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

But for the future, as Christ’s forgiveness and cleansing washes today away and we awake anew, rested in Him, we shall gather “not neglecting our meeting together” as we “encourage one another and build up one another,”  “confessing our sins to one another, and praying for one another so that we may be healed” (Hebrews 10:24, 1 Thessalonians 5:11, James 5:16, with change of tense and pronoun).  I am not naive enough to think this exchange will be forgotten between the two, but I am hopeful to believe it will be redeemed.

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God’s answer to him, the recipient of the harsh critique:

“Sin…is not what it is usually thought to be; it is not to steal and tell lies.  Sin is for one man to walk brutally over the life of another and to be quite oblivious of the wounds he has left behind” (Shusaku Endo, Silence).

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LORD, we know You to be supreme over everything.  You are aware.  You see when we betray our brothers and sisters.  You hear every lie.  We refuse Your correction, and You offer it again.  You, Jesus, have already taken the weight of our crosses upon Yourself, it was not and is not too heavy for You.  It is with Your strength that we persevere.  We come to You asking for courage in letting go.  We let go the fear of being misheard, of being submissive, of being dismissed and/or ridiculed.  We know there will be hate, for You Lord were mistreated and our faith is in You.  We do not belong here, we are merely here for a short period of time.  Why do we seek such comforts?  If someone hears Your name on my lips and nothing else, that is a victory!  We come asking for the courage to back down from a fight that is in our own name.  We come to You with the desire to fulfill our vow to You: a life of union to You and to Your Church.  We long to serve You, Lord, in a way that is pleasing to You.  Thank You for loving us, especially when we find it difficult to love ourselves, to love one another.  We come with hearts of thanksgiving as You show us Your way.

 

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Does your ear ever ring at the sound of that word…the one word you so desperately long to hear?

Mentor(ing).

I still find it comical, when answering, “So how did you go from California to a Baptist seminary?” or “How did you end up here?”  It was one conversation, one utterance of breath really.  A need for servants in this city to care and encourage women to fight, leave, and overcome the ties of human trafficking.

Did I stay? Yes.  Am I involved? No, I pray for and with friends who are, but am not personally fighting for the abolition of human trafficking in this city, in any official role.

Rather, I jumped in, advocating for the voice of foster children.  A beautiful thing, truly, something I will always be prayerful and passionate about.

This too, I was never led to pursue.

Round 3…

“Okay, God, I get it.  I love serving you by discipling your children.  It was going to be the women, the girls, I thought.  But then, it seemed it was going to be a foster child.”  “Not now, not here.”  “Whom then, Lord?”

Within the week, I was offered two opportunities.

Both sounded the alarms in my ears, “………MENTORING…..” and “….MENTORING….” I heard little else.

I missed out on necessary information and ended up in situations I had not anticipated.  I didn’t want to call it what it was, but I grew bitter quickly.

“Mentoring, disciplining requires people Lord.  Where are these people?”

My tongue, again, that of a fool speaking when it shall remain still.

“Slaves, obey your earthly masters with deep respect and fear.  Serve them sincerely as you would serve Christ.  Try to please them all the time, not just when they are watching you.   As slaves of Christ, do the will of God with all your heart.  Work with enthusiasm, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people” (Ephesians 6:5-7).

If I love to say, “I am free from my slavery to sin, and I have become a slave to righteous living, for I have chosen to obey Christ and the will of God” (Romans 6:16,18), then I must do just that, obey the will of God and work with enthusiasm as though I have the privilege to bow at Christ’s feet and wash them myself.

These files are not the mundane, these files are documentation of the will of God!

They aren’t faceless, sparse depictions of people, they are relationships forming, children of God joining together for the sake of His glory, discipling one another.

I might be the administrator of it, and not be a participant, but still God is being graced by this work.  I am His servant.

No more wasting time just sitting around. This girl is a servant of the Lord, work is to be done.

Week 3 in this position, still without a present employer, and now I see a glimpse of what God has orchestrated.  Yesterday I was given the place, the hopes, the kids, the timeline of opportunity.   Connecting with individuals around this city, leading them to invest in a mentoring relationship with kids (little ones) and remaining with them through graduation.  Committing life to one another, as we have in Christ.  The vision was shared, and now I get to see it through.

I am advocating the need, and mediating the formation of these relationships.  This seems to embody each role, I previously sought, as one united theme.

This dreamer has been given the fingers to type, the ears to hear the phone ring, and the car to go into the churches and make this happen.

So, rather than rationalizing how I am removing myself from a position I did not see coming, I have a thankful heart with an appearance of gladness as I am able to pull resources in both roles and see this city come before Christ as His bride.

Disciples make disciples.  These are more than words, this is life opening up before me.

LORD Jesus, I want to plant seeds of sweet tasting fruit, of flowers that ooze with perfume.  Might my tongue be struck when it smites You and the work You are doing.  Lord, I know that I do not always know.  I recognize that I am still gaining understanding.  But I have no excuse to question You.  There is no such timing as perfect as Yours.  Thank You, for I hear the instruments, there are children everywhere shouting Your name in glee.  I pray for Your Family, Lord, might we come together as One Body, separated by nothing, joined by the blood You have already shed.  You are patient, my God, thank You for not giving up on this stubborn fool.  You continue to inspire the work that is produced by my living breath, and as Your servant, this work will be used in beautiful ways.  Glory is forever Yours!

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In a sermon entitled, “Abraham and the Torch,” Timothy Keller speaks of Abraham’s belief in God, but more than that, how Abraham believed God.  Through his life, God made promises to Abraham, but never revealed when, how, or where they would be delivered. Abraham still believed.

To believe God requires coming to Christ, bowing in respect, and hearing His promises.

I want to say with full confidence, as David’s advisers shouted, “We are with you…do what you think is best” (2 Samuel 15:15).  But I also want to be so entangled with all of who God is, that the words from my mouth are as trustworthy as David and his adviser, Ahithopel–“wise as though it had come directly from the mouth of God” (2 Samuel 14:20, 16:23).

This takes discipline.  Discerning what is of God and what is led by my fleshy desires requires submission before God and humility in accepting His correction.

It is a relationship, not a legalistic formulation.  I cannot account for any type of system or path to my own salvation, for it is a gift I am never deserving of.

I know all these things, and believe them… yet, I am all too quick at playing pharisee.  My relationship with Christ is wondrous.  It is not fair by any means, for Christ offers so much more than I am ever able to give back.  So I pick up my cross and follow, as He leads.

I am so grateful for a passion to delve deep with God, to listen and remain still, and for the ability to sing loudly and dance wildly knowing that it is in awe of the One who created it all.  In worship and praise, I hope to be so bold, so bonded with Christ that I have no care as to how foolish people may see me.  I worship for God, not for people.  I delight in God, not in people’s affections or view of whom they see me to be.

“Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God.  If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant” (Galatians 1:10).

I love spiritual disciplines.  But the way that God speaks to me, or the posture I take before Him, or the freedom of time spent away from worldly appointments, cannot become the standard I hold others to.  There is joy that comes from rejoicing in all God has done, is doing, and promises for the future.  There is hope that comes from searching the depths of His presence in all and everything that is and surrounds us.

But whom am I to judge? I don’t want to be Absalom stealing God’s people away from the anointed one (2 Samuel 15:1-12).  And yet, I have foolishly voiced my opinion on someone’s accords with God.  Only He knows the truth that is buried in one’s heart, not I!

From now on, I hope this to be true: Might I delight when I hear someone call themselves as a Christian.  Never again, will I judge whether their fruits reflect a life following Christ or their own dictates.

LORD, in You we entrust our lives.  By Your lead we shall not stumble.  Jesus we ask You to continue teaching us.  Father, discipline us with a rod when You see right.  Jesus,  no person was too ordinary for You to reach, show us Your way.  Your Word tells us, “Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people.  And don’t think you know it all” (Romans 12:16)!  God, You do know it all.  Everything is Yours.

I will praise the LORD at all times.
I will constantly speak his praises.
I will only boast in the LORD,
let all who are helpless take heart.
Come, let us tell of the LORD’s greatness,
let us exalt his name together

I prayed to the LORD, and he answered me.
He freed me from all my fears.
Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy:
no shadow of shame will darken their faces…

Taste and see that the LORD is good.
Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!
Fear the LORD, you his godly people,
for those who fear him will have all they need.
– Psalm 34: 1-5, 8-9

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“She has been dreaming of this since she was 10.  This is a bucket list check for her.”

I found myself, practically whining, “Mom,” trying to quiet her from embarrassing me in front of our Costa Rican ATV guides.  Mind you, I had already perfectly jumped and rolled off (with scrapes and bruises rather than a fatal injury) my quad hours before.  If anything was embarrassing, it was that.  And I wasn’t embarrassed. Rather, I was frustrated that my incapability to make that sharp turn down a steep mountain ridge prevented me from manning my own ATV for the next hour.  Pride and disrespect, my downfalls.

Day two was my trigger.

Before setting off for Costa Rica with my family, I traveled from New Orleans to California (my parent’s home), with a prayer force behind me.  I had every intention of talking with my mom about her beliefs of Christianity, her desire, and the reality of her relationship with Jesus.  I wanted and want to know if my mom’s heart continues to yearn for intimacy with an all-knowing and loving God.

It didn’t happen. I used sickness as an excuse, but now I realize that it was my own weakness.  I was in my own way.  I’ve awaited a time to be physically present with her to speak boldly only the words the Holy Spirit leads me to reveal, and to have a patient ear with her, all while serving her in her desired way of intentional, devoted time together.  And now it passed.  My lack of obedience has not failed God’s ability to love my mother.  He continues to embrace her and call her loved, even though I was unable to deliver the message.

Perhaps, even, I removed myself (yes, in disobedience), with the intent of removing the ability to pridefully claim the responsibility and authority of bringing Christ’s name to her tongue.  But that is already a confession I’ve brought to Jesus and believed was redeemed by instilling the continual proclamation that He has authority over everything–her life, my life, and our relationship included.

On day three in Costa Rica, I was separated from my family and was given the opportunity to talk about family culture with a rafting guide.  Felix grew up going to the same school, living within the same block as his now wife and mother of his two girls.  He lives within 100 meters of both his mom and mother-in-law.  Every morning, he wakes up at 4 a.m. and heads to his mother’s house for coffee and breakfast before heading to work, because he knows it touches her heart to be able to serve him breakfast and later wash his kayak equipment.  He honors her by allowing her to continue the work she has always done in his life.

He spent 3 years of middle school in Florida (his only time away from this block his entire life). So when given the opportunity, I asked, “Did you miss your mom while you were away?” His answer surprised me.  He spoke of missing the ability to have a conversation with friends.  He wasn’t speaking of a longing to converse with friends in Costa Rica, it was his beginner-level English that prevented him from feeling apart of the community.  He noted the Cuban population, but primarily lived in Florida feeling he was one of very few Spanish speakers.  But just because he didn’t miss his mom doesn’t mean he is frustrated now spending every day trying to please her.  That was my first and ungodly impression.  He thoroughly enjoys it.  He seeks to please and honor both his father and mother.

Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you (Exodus 20:12).

He accepts this commandment and believes God’s promise.

On day nine, I had a conversation that left me near the same. Leelander lives in a town of no more than 400, a town that requires off-roading for 25 minutes in order to get to, and owns one short-semi-truck hired for all deliveries.  He lives with his wife and two children, owns a steeple, and helps his father move the cows on the top of the mountain (his farm, 6 miles above the town, accessible only on horseback).  Jokingly, but genuinely, he shared, “when I need to reach them, I throw a rock at their roof.  One that won’t break anything.” His father and sister’s family both live within three houses of each other, and he has never left the town for any extended period of time.

The blow to my so-thought humble appeal:

On a Leelander-made hike to their private waterfall, he and I defined and spoke of the presence of psychological and spiritual concerns in the town. When we reached the top, he asked, “Are you Catholic?” speaking to the group–my mom, one brother, and I.  My mom quickly answered “Christian,” to which Leelander pointed to my brother, then me.  After my brow furrowed hearing my brother say “Christian,” I stated, “I’m Christian.”  I didn’t mean anything by it, but maybe I did.  I truly didn’t see the harm in identifying “I’m,” but my mom barked back, “I’m?”  My platform, if it did ever exist, was gone.

Again, I was faced with the reality: I separate myself from identifying with my family.  It is the weakness that keeps me identifying with the testimony of being the only Christian in my family. It is the arrogance that suggests I have a better path, which I do in Christ, but the path I have in mind, might be of my own imagination.  Sometimes, God is revelationary in my life (Romans 1:19) and my family is for a moment, completely surrendered before Him.  I’m not holding back.  But then, when the time comes to see the fruit come from this devotion, I raise my head and attempt to speak from my own throne.  I am not a god worth standing before.  I shall not be a god in my own life, and no good can come from me trying to speak my own accord in someone else’s life.

My challenge continues to be: Bow before the LORD in posture and in attitude as you revel in all He has done, is doing, and will do in and through you.  Through Him and with great compassion, a devotion to glorify Him will allow future witness of His splendor.

I continue to commit my family to the Lord.  I know that when given the opportunity again, I cannot distance myself from Him, but rather, shall cling to Him in every breath as to not speak highly of myself before my family. For they know my flaws, and my flaws are no kind of reflection of God who lives within me. Might they grow to delight in the fullness of loving and being loved by Abba, with Jesus Christ, and through the Holy Spirit.

I already had forgiveness in my heart, that was a beautiful wrecking and surrendering that happened years ago, and deepened months ago.  This trip, these 15 days with my mom, paps, and brothers taught me to genuinely love my mom.  It wasn’t a task or a duty, it was affection.  Completely and utterly out of compassion and gratitude for who she is in my life.  I am nearly sure, I have never felt anything like it before.

Father, You call us close to You.  We fall away and You call after us, leading us home.  You are a great and mighty warrior, a compassionate lover, and dedicated teacher.  Praise be to Your name.  I ask you to teach this stubborn heart how to speak wisely, with few words, in adoration of everything you show yourself to be.  Might I continue to believe in You with confidence, and believe Your every utterance to me.  Your promises are great, and are a reward far greater than I deserve.  I thank You Abba, for the example of Abraham’s faith.  I long to see peoples, as many as every grain of sand, come before You LORD.  I know that Abraham did not live the years to witness the fruition of Your promises, during his days on earth, and yet, He lived close with You.  He is human, and I am human.  You created us LORD to be reflections of Your goodness, and yet we fail You.  I praise You LORD that You are far greater than I am weak.  That You still revel and make Yourself known even when I defile Your very name.  I did not mean to LORD, but I know that through a wicked heart that strays from intimacy with You, comes spoiled fruit.  You call me to Yourself, and it is with You, that all Your beauty that is around me will be enjoyed.  I want to rejoice with You.  Please hear this cry, as I know You already have.  Shine the light Jesus, as You already do.  I want to walk with You all of my days.  Keep me from promoting myself before my family’s eyes.  They do not need to know of anything that is corrupt or disingenuous.  LORD I ask thee, might I have the discipline to be genuine, completely devoted to allowing them to see the wreck that I am and the magnificent grace You have shown me. 

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“Because I am social, you’d be surprised to find out I’m extremely introverted.”

For years, before knowing Christ and then before discovering a love for contemplation with Christ, I had always been the loudest one in the crowd, the glue of any social group, the ice-breaker, and often times called “an extreme extrovert.”

A few months ago, a graduate professor of counseling said the above quote.  She, very much like me, is goofy and introspective.  I have for a long time known the definition and application of both introversion and extraversion, but her identifying as an introvert challenged me.

What rejuvenates me: having time alone or being surrounded by people?

I long to spend time in solitude, but it isn’t alone for I am with God.  When I step away from the crowd, I enter into deep thought, reflection, conversation, and sometimes stillness before the LORD but I am never alone.  I think perhaps, this love for discipline and seeing it as a part of being close with God, has kept me from seeing it as a desire to draw away from people.

So, gathered with a group of young minds completely transformed and tuned into what God is revealing before them, I uttered, “it seems a little odd to two extreme extroverts,” to which, the other gal I had included responded, “I’m actually highly introspective and therefore introverted.”  The group went on to identify the common misconception of extraversion as social and introversion as shy, and all I could think is, “God, have I just lied?”

It has been said before, so I will mention it briefly, but I grew up wanting to be everything my mother wasn’t and nothing that she was.  Harsh, I know.  God continues to remove the judgements I have placed on her and show me grace in the revealing and relieving of such habits that reflect just that.

I knew her to be lazy: laying in bed reading a book without ever getting up, not even to eat a balanced meal.  Therefore, I avoided reading.  God wrecked that when He revealed to me the true nature of wisdom.  I want to be teachable, and therefore, must know God’s Truth and now, I love to study philosophy, theology, and psychology.

But as I continue to struggle through fighting a tendency towards laziness, I have always perceived her lack of ambition and social awkwardness due to staying in the house with introversion.  I wanted to be anything but that.

How wrong I was. Books for her are an escape, a narrative transforms the imagination and allows whims to be the norm.  For me, I grow in ability to self-reflect, accept a challenge of growth, and apply practice and new knowledge to the work God brings before my feet.

As I sat at the Indian restaurant blankly looking at whomever was speaking, I continued to think, “I just told them how hard I try not to lie, and yet, I think I just did.  Should I confess to the table. No no, I’ve been the dominate voice tonight, I should be quiet.  But how could I have been so confused in believing I’m extremely extroverted?  Maybe I’m straight on the line, neither or. But God, here I am having this one-sided conversation with you instead of with them, so maybe I am an introvert.  If that’s the case thank you for blessing me with the ability to socialize well.  I was extroverted, I know I was.  When did that change? Why? This is prideful.  I feel foolish, LORD, for I should know this, it is my area of study and yet, I’m the one person at this table that has it wrong…”

I love to visit weekend-long silent retreats, and often after cringe at every sound while transitioning back into the chaos of everyday life–traffic lights, blinkers, honking, timers, alarms, sirens, etc.  However, day to day I know my solitude with the Lord motivates me, prepares me for the work to come through meeting with people.  And at the end of the day, I want to converse with others about what God has shown them, and right before bed, I love thanking God for the goodness of what the day offered, and prepare myself for what He has for tomorrow.  Balance is what I strive for, and perhaps, a balanced personality indicator is what I have.  God knows, and I’m not about to attempt to label myself, for His names for me are far greater.

No matter the amount of personality tests I have done, I know this to be true: I love and honor God by loving and serving his people.  I start and end my day with Him, and throughout the days I will serve Him by aiding the homeless, nurturing the fatherless, counseling the helpless, and mentoring the hopeless.

God, I recognize when I was the loudest one in the group, I often times fell into a habit of controlling the situation.  I always thought it was of benefit to those around me.  Now I know this to be true, when I am still before you, completely surrendered and willing to follow You, I am led to do mighty things by Your authority, not my own.  I thank you for challenging my pride, yet again, and ask that you continue to correct me in my wrongness.  As I continue to grow into Your likeness, LORD, I know these labels do not matter, but the virtue does.  Keep my lips from speaking falsely.  Might I worship You with every utterance, and when I speak of my own merits, quiet my tongue and turn the words, the sounds into praise that lifts Your name on high.  Praise be to You, Amen.

 

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