Saturday, October 15, 2016

That Timeless Voice

For most of my adult life I have made every effort to leave my past behind me where it belongs and move forward. Rarely do I stop and examine a piece of my early history for long because an unpleasant memory will inevitably drop in and ruin the party. Thankfully, I made an exception today.

When I was in High School I had a massive crush on country singer, John Michael Montgomery. His dimples were the reason for my existence and his face was the first thing I saw when I opened my locker. This morning as I dropped my child off at school, I pulled into my driveway and lingered as a familiar song embraced me like an old friend.

As Life’s a Dance swept over me I was instantly transported to a time when everyone had a pager hanging out of their pocket, Patrick Swayze was still alive and as hunky as ever, and there was not a Kardashian to be seen or heard. It was a time when I was just starting to find my way through high school, just beginning to discover who I was meant to be. Those were the days when my home life was tumultuous and sometimes downright scary. Yet all it took was one song to help me find some sense of sanity in a dangerously insane world. I remember when that sweet voice would somehow in some unexpected way help me navigate through the most challenging times of my adolescence. For reasons I can’t explain, Mr. Montgomery’s music was a lifeline to me, a source of soothing comfort in a cold and unfriendly world. The irony of this unexpected jaunt through time is not lost on me.

Me at age 14
Tomorrow I’m going to face an unpleasant part of my past once again. I find it utterly mind-blowing that today God would use one of my favorite voices of that time to comfort me and gently remind me that it’s all going to be ok. Then again, God is just full of surprises and that doesn’t surprise me at all.

‘You are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned…
…For I am the Lord your God.’
Psalm 43:1-3

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

End of Religion

Currently our church is doing a study on the concept of grace. The sermons, Bible studies, Sunday school classes and Care Groups are discussing the same topic. That’s refreshing. Grace is a simple word. But oh how deep it is.

And I wonder if we really understand it.

The church I grew up in did NOT dispense grace. They knew what God expected of you and told you so…and in the case of my Mother…daily. I exercised on the performance treadmill all day, every day. Yet I did not obtain any sense of achievement or peace. In fact, I ended up in the hospital bleeding internally due to stuffing the questions I had regarding the lack of love from so-called Christians.
In my 30’s, I did a total reassessment of God, religion, relationships, and me. My life was filled with guilt and shame over the inability to live up to the Christian standard. As I studied the Bible for myself and listened to preachers outside of my denomination, I was shocked at the message I discovered.

I could get off the performance treadmill. God did not require that. Thus, I began a journey that continues to this day.

I’ve had people say, “I could never be religious like you.” I quickly reply. “I used to be religious, but I gave it up.” The conversation that ensues is always interesting and allows me to clarify what being a Christ-follower means.

Here’s a quote from my study today.

“Christianity is not a religion; it is the announcement of the end of religion.” Robert Capon

What a relief to understand that my human effort is not needed for God to work. If I make myself available, He might enlist me to help. No pressure. That frees me up to just love…the addict, the homosexual, the busybody and the legalist. And therein lies the rub. I don’t like some of them. That’s when grace comes into play in my life. I need it as much as they do.

It’s time for the end of religion. Our nation needs to exercise grace. So do our churches. And each one of us needs to extend grace to others…and to ourselves.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28-30 (MSG)

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Trust in the Wait

The cake was supposed to be perfect. I drew on inspiration from Rachel Ray to make a box taste like homemade and I chose my best bundt cake pan. I chopped strawberries, hoping they would turn ordinary chocolate into something outstanding. I worked tirelessly, knowing that I was under a deadline. I had to have the house clean, laundry done, cake baked and frosted, and dinner on the table by six so that we could be at Bible Study an hour later. There was no time for distractions. Then I made a cardinal mistake.

I thought for sure twenty minutes was plenty of time for a cake to cool enough to be transferred to a platter. I lifted the pan and shook, growing more frustrated as the seconds ticked by. This thing refused to budge and I didn’t have time to wait around. I gave it a final shove from the bottom and finally accepted the fact that the cake wasn’t going to move until it was good and ready. By then it was too late. I learned a hard lesson that day. Sometimes waiting is our only option. When we try to rush or force something to go our way, we just end up with a broken, crummy mess. Good thing God specializes in the cleanup.

Obviously we can’t compare a busted cake to a nation at war but work with me for a second. The prophet Habakkuk was bewildered, broken, and beside himself at the utter devastation he was witnessing. He asks, “How long shall I cry and you don’t hear?” God, why is this happening and what are you going to do about it?

In that moment he was having a legitimate conversation with God about the injustices he was seeing. “How are you going to fix this, God? There’s a severe mess here and I’m one guy! You’ve got to step up and take care of this!” I love how God responds to his plea…

You have to trust me.

 “I see things you don’t see. Even if nothing makes sense to you, it all makes sense to me. When you can't explain what’s happening around you, when I ask you to do something that seems impossible just remember this..."

"Nothing is too difficult or beyond the scope of my reach. I see all, I know all, and I hold it all in the palm of my hand.”

I made a second cake and this time I gave it all the time it needed to cool. I understood that some things are simply beyond my control and the best thing I can do is surrender  and let time and circumstance have their way. God will take care of the rest.

Waiting on Him,

Saturday, September 10, 2016

A Tale of Two Boys

Imagine if you will, two couples, unalike and unknown to each other, but with at least one thing in common: they are both raising 6-year old autistic boys.

Couple #1 is happy that their son loves to play, and he loves the outdoors. When he sees the other neighborhood kids outside playing and he runs to join them, his parents don’t hinder him. Maybe the neighborhood kids don’t understand him; maybe they exclude him from their games; maybe they tease him, taunt him, and egg him on. And in his distress and confusion he reacts by “melting down”, lashing out to defend himself.

As a result, his parents are sued by some neighbors because the boy bit and scratched their children. This precious child is labeled in the lawsuit as a “public nuisance”; his parents are heartbroken. Many families move away from the danger, and now home values in the neighborhood are bottoming out because of the neighborhood’s reputation.

Couple #2 also loves their outgoing son. When they see that a local church has an open invitation to Vacation Bible School, they choose to enroll their son. Maybe the children welcome him with gentle enthusiasm; maybe they engage him in conversation, include and encourage him in games and discussions. Maybe they know when to back away and give him space until he is receptive again. And when he is accepted, in his joy reacts with laughter and dancing.

As a result, this precious boy has the time of his life, makes friends, and learns about Jesus, and his parents are introduced to the Gospel. They are assured their child will go to Heaven when the time comes, and that they too are offered this free gift of love and life.

Both of these stories are true. I read about the neighborhood lawsuit in a news article, and I wondered what caused this precious boy to react so violently. The second boy was in my Vacation Bible School class this summer, and I was a witness the love and acceptance he received.

I can’t say I was stunned by the different way these two boys were received by their peer groups and communities. I may spend six days a week inside the bubble of my church, but I’m not ignorant or inexperienced in a world without Christ as its center. I’ve been there.

I don’t know anything more about the families involved in the scenario that ended badly, but I can say that in the second, even amidst the chaos and high-tension levels of VBS, Jesus was at the center. I can only assume that made all of the difference.

I know His presence has made a similar difference in my own life.

Like everyone on this earth, I go through regular times of chaos and high-tension … minor “storms of life”. I’ve been known to melt down and throw a hissy-fit, resulting in moping and muttering. More often now, though, thanks to the power of Christ, I’ve been known to weather storms with confidence, grace, and patience, resulting in joy and affirmation.

Peter saw his savior and leapt out of the boat to walk across the raging sea when Jesus said, “Come”, but he lost faith when the storm became his focus instead of Jesus and quickly started to sink. Paul, on the other hand, never lost sight of the promise set before him, and he remained “content in all circumstances”. Even when shipwrecked, tortured, and imprisoned, Paul never stopped praising the Lord and preaching the Gospel.

Jesus lifted Peter out of the water, and He is always faithful to pull me back up, too. But I want to be like Paul more often.

 Life is better on top of the water, by Jesus’ side, skipping, laughing and dancing with joy. 


Monday, September 5, 2016

What Version are You

I recently purchased a new Bible. It’s not like I needed one. But our pastor switched to the English Standard Version and I didn’t have that one. Some of my Bibles are really old. Others are designed to help you study as you read. One of mine is an archaeological Bible that offers a visual journey of life during Jesus’ life. I purchased it after my trip to Israel. It’s fascinating to read the scriptures connected to a specific area of the Holy Land, knowing I actually walked there.

Last week I donated seven Bible versions to my church, including one called the Recovery Bible for people who attend Celebrate Recovery. My newest one is brown leather with no words on the spine. It’s called a journaling Bible, interleaved edition. Every page has words on one side and a blank page opposite. That’s where I’m supposed to wax eloquent.

As I thought about all my different styles of Bibles, I pondered a saying I’ve heard.

You may be the only Bible some people read.

Just as there are many different types of printed Bibles, there are also assorted human beings who are Christ followers. Some ride motorcycles. Others stand behind a pulpit. Most are just ordinary, every day folks. Some human versions are very legalistic. Others just feel the love.

But those who do not know Jesus are reading you. What version are you?

“Your cleansed and obedient life, not your words, will bear witness to what I have done.” Luke 5:14 (MSG)

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Nothing Like a Good Plot

            If you’re like me, there’s nothing better than a good novel to take you on a wild adventure, or inflict the agony of unrequited love. If the writer is really good, I ignore my “to do” list for just one more chapter, and then another. Finally, at the end, the hero or heroine wins the day, usually because of some little fact or event buried unnoticed way back in the second chapter. A writer friend of mine is the master of the unexpected plot twists, those “O’Henry” endings that leave us amazed.

Read Read

            In the Bible, when his jealous brothers sold Joseph into slavery, he must have felt all was lost until Pharaoh took him under his wing. Eventually, after years in jail for something he did not do, Joseph resumed control of Pharaoh’s Egypt and saved the kingdom from the ravages of a famine.

            Enter his evil brothers who traveled to Egypt for food. They had every reason to fear swift retribution when they learned this powerful government official was the little brother they had sold into slavery. Instead, Joseph told them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Genesis 50:19 NIV)

Joseph and Brothers Reunited

            So God is really the inventor of the “O’Henry” ending!

            If I were to write about every little thing that happened in my day, every happenstance over the years, it would be the most boring, unread book in the history of literature. Randomness does not interest people because it has no point.  Yet, a well crafted plot in the hands of a good writer, weaves elements, large and small, into a cohesive whole cloth that has a beginning, middle and end -  and sells millions of copies.

            I do not believe my life is a series of random events, and neither is yours. How often have you said, “If I hadn’t taken the bus that day, I wouldn’t have…” or “What are the chances that…?” There is a plot to our lives, a reason for what happens to us. After we recognize the Divine Author who sings over his characters (us), we begin to see, even if it takes decades, how and perhaps why God wrote this scene of joy or that season of sorrow into our lives.

            I’ll be darned if I can anticipate God’s moves in my life. Just when I think I have a glimmer of where God is going with something (where he will zig), he zags instead. It really it does not matter though, because I have finally learned that my life has significance.  It is not just a series of unrelated events. I am not the pawn of a fickle wind or a literary hack

            Through Jesus the Christ, I am a child of an awesome, powerful, wise Creator God and loving Father. My life will have meaning until I take my last breath because God plotted it out for his purposes even before I was “knit together in my mothers’ womb.”



My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they were all written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them (Psalm 139:15-16 NKJV)


Sunday, August 28, 2016

When Hypocrites Gather

  Step inside our church sanctuary on most Sunday mornings, and I guarantee you'll see at least one hypocrite in attendance. That would be me.

          I show up like I belong there --- in God's house. I smile, greet others (who may also be dragging unholy baggage through doors that beckon us with "Welcome!" signs at every entrance). I sing praises, read scripture, take voluminous sermon and Bible study notes and pray. Just like I belong there.

          Because I do. Just like hundreds of other smiling, singing, reading, listening and praying Christians in attendance with me. Through the eyes of those who choose not to be there, we may look like a gathering of sinners clothed in superficial holiness.

          If they only knew. If our presence depended on perfection, even for just the previous week or in many cases the early morning hours of frenzy trying to even LOOK like we qualify as Christians, those "Welcome!" signs would be smiling at, well, no one!  The sanctuary would be completely empty.

          It's only by God grace, His unmerited favor that allows all sinners to come to Him. He not only welcomes us, He pleads for our presence:

"Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden,
and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls."  Matthew 11:28, NASB

          Recently, I gathered with another circle of those who would undoubtedly confess to the "Not-So-Secret Society" of believing Christians to pray. This particular time was for my husband as he was wheeled through doors open only to a select few qualified to incise into the human heart to repair damaged arteries.

          And pray we did. Some led aloud while the rest of us silently prayed in agreement in our own words. Once my husband was safely in recovery, friends and family slipped out and returned to their own lives. Several hours later, a post-op crisis meant my husband with his already compromised heart and condition had to be quickly wheeled back behind those doors to the abyss of an operating room. As soon as that news reached our less-than-perfect prayer warriors they circled once again to take His yoke upon us.

          Jesus says in scripture: 

"For where two or three have gathered together in My name,
 I am there in their midst." Matthew 18:20, NASB  

          Jesus always says what He means, and He means what He says. He doesn't qualify those who may gather in His name. Nothing in this promise says "imperfect Christians need not attend." Thankfully, those prayers of our humble Christian family and friends simply asking for the Lord's protection and healing were answered. Not because my husband or any of us earned the right to pray, but because we serve a loving and forgiving God Who desires to be with us in all situations.

          To some, Christians are simply hypocrites who think we're "good enough" to enter God's house or, more importantly, His presence. Thank God, He doesn't agree. When we have acknowledged His Son, confessed our sins (repented), and invited Jesus into our lives through the Holy Spirit, God only sees us through the cleansing blood Jesus shed on the cross to pay for all of our sins --- past, present, and future. We seek to please Him out of gratitude and love, but when we fail, He doesn't see the disobedience and rebellion that surely comes on a daily basis. He sees children who simply have asked for and received His free and perfect gift of salvation.

          If you happen to be on the outside looking in or maybe just imagining what goes on beyond the doors to God's house, why not take a closer look. Not at the hypocrites in attendance, but at the Host who waits to welcome you into His house and into His eternal home.

“One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,To behold the beauty of the Lord and to meditate in His temple.
Psalm 27:8,NASB


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

  © Blogger template Simple n' Sweet by 2009

Back to TOP