“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Romans 12:1-2
Month: June 2014
My son has a thing for sticks. He collects every good stick he can find. At any given time you’ll see him out in the yard waving a stick around like it’s a ninja staff. He keeps the collection in an untidy pile right next to the front door. I’ve found sticks in the laundry, sticks in the furniture, sticks in the car.
I admit I’ve never fully understood the fascination. I am, after all, a little lacking when it comes to the way of the ninja. Still I can see, in my own way, through his imagination.
I watch him as he dive kicks off of the big rock, making contact with a host of marauders attacking him. He spins to the left, staff waving behind him as the enemy flees. He is a master hiding in the shadows just waiting for his foes to make a move.
I wonder when it is in our lives that we stop seeing ourselves winning the battle. Somewhere between childhood and adulthood we often lose that warrior mindset. Where we were once valiant and invincible, we now see ourselves as weak and conquered.
The opposite should be true. When we are young we need a protector. We need someone to watch over us and keep us safe from the enemies that might surround. We do not yet possess the wisdom to know the difference between the ‘rights’ and the ‘wrongs’ before us. So we seek guidance from those wiser than ourselves, our parents, grandparents and mentors. Yet, here we are now, the parents, the mentors, the ones with the answers and we run scared when the challenges come like we are victims.
When did the enemy become more valiant than us? When did we give up our warrior staff?
Maybe it’s time we started collecting sticks again. We could pile them up by our front door so when we leave the house each day we leave armed with love, patience, joy…whatever we need. We would have our own personal arsenal with which to face the enemy.
Even better still, we have at our disposal a sword of truth, a breastplate of righteousness and a shield of faith. Perhaps it’s time we start wielding it with skill again. Perhaps it’s time we stand in the yard and open up our imaginations and face our giants. The truth is, it doesn’t take much to defeat them. In the end all we need is a little faith and a slingshot.
You see, we have become the Giants. We who follow Christ, have grown in stature, maturity and wisdom. We possess all the skills that we need for life and godliness. We, fearless few, can go out and storm the gates of hell taking them by force. They can never stand against us.
So let the marauders come. Let them come and try to steal our joy. Let them try to steal our peace. We, the fearless few, will stand like ninjas wielding our weapons in the face of evil.
All it really takes is a little childlike faith and the knowledge that we are more than conquerors. We can accomplish everything that we set out to accomplish. Fight on, fearless few, fight on.
Bring me to the place where nothing else matters
Where all I need is you
Where nothing else satisfies
Make me hungry
I take my fill and want for more
I cannot exhaust the spring from which the water flows
I run toward the source of my comfort
I escape the need for comfort knowing peace is given at the hand of the maker
My meat is to do his will
I’ll bring to you the tattered rags of my righteousness
The frayed edges of my accomplishments
And watch you smile and tell me that you aren’t after my clothes
You are after my heart
You want to watch me run
So I will run hard and know that you are smiling
Your smile is all that matters
One step toward you and I’m fallen.
Like breathing, falling in love came so freely.
This gravity draws me deeper until I’m submerged and breathing in the song escaping your lips.
It’s there, at the moment of my burial, that I find I’m fully alive.
Love your Enemy
We are told to love our enemies
My greatest enemy is me
I fight against my will and my brain when they try to make me give up or over think
I fight against my doubts that would try to name me unloved
I wish I could call myself perfect but what a boring journey that would be
We are told to love our enemies
My enemy is the past
Pain felt long ago that tries to resurface at the mention of my failings
I kill it again with the sword of truth and silence it’s nagging
But I know it will return
It’s a battle I’ll fight but it’s a battle I’ll win
I am more than my past
I am an overcomer
We are told to love our enemies
So I muster up the strength to give myself a little grace
I thank God for the opportunity to live and grow and push on a little farther
I choose to be thankful for who I am and where I’ve been and all I’ve learned along the way
I know it all brought me here
And I am complete
The whole of the gospel speaks of dying to ones self in order that Christ may live within. I have often prayed the prayer that David prayed in Psalm 51:10
“Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me.”
There’s risk involved with praying such prayers. For the heart of man to be clean, it must first be revealed unclean. As a general principle, people don’t enjoy having their sins revealed. For sin to remain in our hearts, it needs to hide away from the light. My pastor used to always say that sin acted much like cockroaches; when the light is turned on, the roaches scatter. They aren’t comfortable hanging out in the light for everyone to see them. There’s danger in the light. Light inherently defeats darkness.
So we hide and hope no one sees who we really are. An atheist friend of mine once told me that his most fundamental problem with Christianity in principle was the notion that men (and women) are inherently sinners. He preferred to start with the premise that men are inherently good. It’s a nice thought, but in practice, it just doesn’t hold true. There is vast evil bound up in the hearts and imaginations of man.
More striking is the fact that when we do something ‘wrong’, we inherently know that we’ve done something wrong. Ben Carson mentioned this phenomenon in his book, One Nation. He recounted a story about when he shot a bird with his BB gun. No one had told him not to shoot a bird, but he felt so guilty and knew that what he’d done was wrong. We do sinful things and feel the effects of those sins not just in respect to consequences but in our hearts.
The beauty of grace is that God has provided a way that we can live in freedom from guilt and shame. Sin no longer holds us captive because it was crucified and buried so that we can be raised to new life with Jesus Christ. Though we were once slaves to sin, we are now completely free. Hence, whatever is revealed in our hearts as unclean or wrong is not a source of condemnation but rather a reason to rejoice. Once we are aware there is an area of need, we can become free from that which held us bound. With every need, we find more freedom. The closer we draw to Christ and the more we take on his likeness, the more we are able to find complete peace and safety.
Suddenly, nothing can hold us back. Where once the voices of our accusers rang out, the voice of our Savior answers that he remembers our sin no longer. Though they call us a slave, he calls us a son. There is absolute freedom in truth.
“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32
“Jesus replied, ‘Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.'” John 8:34-36
“Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world. But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, ‘Abba, Father!’ Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ” Galatians 4:3-7
Some have mistakenly believed that Christianity is a religion of guilt but the opposite is true. The gospel was never about finding fault that is a human thing to do, not ordained by the divine. In fact when Jesus was asked the question in John 9:2-3 “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.” The disciples were interested in assigning fault. Jesus was interested in revealing the glory of the God through healing.
Yes, God hates sin. He hated it so much that he made provisions so that it would never have a hold or claim on us again. That is the gospel. That Jesus LOVES! That Jesus HEALS! That we are FREE!
The next time your accusers come (even if that accuser is your own inner voice) and try to tell you aren’t good enough, answer back in truth. That, “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8. He doesn’t demand perfection. He doesn’t sit around counting our mistakes and writing them in the stars. He is faithful to show us who we are in the light of his holiness and we then can continue conquering those things that try to hold us captive. We have been reconciled to him and he is ever working to draw us near.
There is no shame or guilt for the former things or even in the ways we fail today or tomorrow. Like a loving father, he continues to love us and allows us to start each new day whole and clean before him. Rather than hiding from our innermost battles, we should stand up and confront them with the power of the gospel and the knowledge that we are more than conquerors and we are free from their groping little claws. One touch of his blood and all is renewed.
The same phrase keeps resonating in my head this week, “Have you finished doing the last thing God asked you to do?” I’m thinking the answer is probably “no” but I can’t remember the last thing he asked me to do, which makes me realize I’m not listening as well as I think I am, which makes me resolve to tune in today, which makes me a better person, which makes the world a little bit better.
When to Speak
Oh the tongue, unruly little member that it is. So hard to control yet able to kindle sparks into wildfires so quickly. More devastating is the heart of man, so quickly devising opinions; so quick to judge and having direct access to the aforementioned member. This arrangement makes it difficult to control myself especially when I feel justified in believing that I have the answer. If only I were wise enough always to listen that still small voice of the spirit reminding me that the more I think I know, the less I really do. There is this vast array of knowledge to be acquired. There’s grandeur that we’ve only begun to understand. There’s perspective we aren’t privy to. Things that motivate the heart of others that we can’t understand because we wear different shoes and walk different roads. We are different.
There are times when it’s absolutely imperative that we speak our minds. There are times when we stand as a lone voice in the darkness proclaiming light. At these times, I won’t stay silent. I will never allow the opinions of others to sway the things I know to be true in my heart. Still, there’s a difference in speaking truth when necessary or saying things just to make your position known.
I think the balance lies in the heart. Are my words motivated by love or vindication? Am I seeking to correct in order to edify or am I seeking to put someone in their place?
Lord, let me speak only what I hear you speaking? God, help me to seek you before I seek my own version of ‘rightness’. I want to be a beacon shining light and compassion rather than a ranting, crushing, know-it-all. Let me be an encouragement! Make me more like you.
I always thought my dad was a hero. I think a lot of us feel that way when we’re growing up. Fathers possess super powers to fix everything from squeaky hinges to teary moments and automotive mayhem. I still call my dad when the car is making a goofy noise and I’m worried. My husband will say something normal like “Take it to the mechanic.” and I’ll say something slightly irrational like, “I’ll call Dad and ask him.” As if Dad is going to be able to help from 1170 miles away over a phone. But my husband doesn’t have the same memories I have. I remember standing next to the open hood of the car watching Daddy fix everything so many times. I remember watching the car that should have been put out to pasture long ago still making its way down the interstate because of his powers.
I remember long summer days sitting by the lake reeling in fish. I remember pretending to fall asleep in the car just so he’d carry me inside late at night. I remember hearing him preach and then practicing my preaching skills to my congregation of stuffed squirrels and bunnies later that afternoon. I remember his smile in the audience while I sang a solo. I remember when he taught me how to play a “D” Chord on the guitar and trying SO hard to get my fingers to stretch far enough to play “G”. (I’ve got it down now by the way.)
My step-dad was equally heroic. When I wandered in the woods and encountered a rattlesnake or water moccasin, he would come save the day. He invested hours looking at boring shells and teaching me how to jump into a wave. He listened and laughed when I made up goofy jokes that didn’t deserve laughter. He put up with more than his share of tickle wars even though he hates to be tickled. We had fun. We laughed often and hard. We still do.
Many of us are blessed enough to have wonderful memories with our dads. Many of us are blessed to watch similar stories unfold between our husbands and our children. My husband is a hero. He nobly walks out his faith each day in front of our children. He works hard. He sacrifices time watching (and playing) golf to wrestle and laugh with our baby boy. He gives of himself and what is more heroic than that? I am blessed to be his wife. I am blessed by him as a father.
Still, even more heroic is the love of our Heavenly Father. He gave so that we can live. He gives abundantly. Grace and love flow freely from His hands, from His heart even when we don’t deserve it. Strength is defined in Him. Selflessness begins in Him. Life was and is breathed in Him.
Today, I am thankful for the heroes in my life. The world is a better place because of heroes like you. Happy Father’s Day!
They’ve Taken you to Haiti
They’ve taken you to Haiti with your consent.
I’m not quite sure what to expect upon your return.
Will you be you?
Will you be another version of yourself?
I hear it gives one appreciation for the things we take for granted.
I hear it gives perspective,
Changes the ordinary into precious.
Really I suppose it changes the vision of the seer more than the makeup of the mundane.
I suppose a week will tell all.
I suppose you’ll bring home many stories and memories you will cherish forever.
And I will hold each memory you’ve lived close to my heart as well.
Two parts of myself fly high and away while I wait here praying,
And hoping for you to be arrows, mighty, in the quiver of the master.
With love, you’ll reach until your target met, is captivated by the grace of a savior.
You will love deeply and divinely.
It’s a hard thing to stay behind but an easy thing to watch you soar.
Go before them…with them, precious Lord and use them mightily.
They’ve taken you to Haiti and I couldn’t be happier.