The Mind of Christ

I have the mind of Christ…

I slowly back away from this thought.  I pick up my phone and distract myself with social media, even though this is my quiet time.  Scrolling mindlessly, my mind floods with the contradiction.  The version I am reading starts with “How could He?”  This is what I most relate with, “How could I have the mind of Christ?”

I know my thoughts.

They are often mean.

They are often judgemental.

My thoughts are full of pride.

My thoughts are full of insecurities.

My thoughts are sarcastic.

God does NOT think like I do.

His gentle nudging says “you have the mind of Christ.  This is true about you.”  I hear “Don’t run from it,   My pen comes back to the paper of my journal.

When are my thoughts like Christ?head-938469_1280There are times when my thoughts are filled with hope, compassion, and love.  There are times when I question “Did I really just think  that?” surprised by the depth of the insight.  Or times when a brilliant thought just bursts forth from my lips and I know I certainly didn’t come up with that.  Yes, I can see thoughts I have like Christ, at times.

When I take time to renew my mind, those Christ like thoughts come more often.  Maybe just because I have the mind of Christ does not mean I always choose to use it. Maybe sometimes I allow my sinful mind to rule my thoughts because I become apathetic.

It is a choice of what I subject myself to and what I allow myself to think on longest.  I have the weapons to pull down the strongholds (II Corinthians 10:4).  I have the choice to take every thought captive (II Corinthians 10:5).  Greater is He that is within me, than he that is in the world (I John 4:4).

The Edge

Have you ever been just traveling along life’s merry way, minding your own business, maybe knowing something was a little off, but not making too big of a deal about it.  Being in a funk, but not being able to pinpoint anything that is particularly wrong.  This season too shall pass you tell yourself.  Then out of nowhere you are sideswiped with the reality that you may be doing the right things, but your mind has taken you down a path you ought not travel.

I guess that is where I have found myself over the past two months.  If someone asked me what was wrong, the answer is nothing.  Really, nothing is wrong.  I look at my life and I know that I am blessed beyond measure.  I have God in my heart.  I have a terrific husband and our marriage seems to be stronger than ever before.  I have three children who are pretty good young adults – not perfect, but good people.  I have three adorable grandchildren that I have a good relationship with and see frequently.  I have a job that is fulfilling and that I find purpose in daily.  I have good people in my life to call friends.  I enjoy volunteering in my community and have connected with programs that I feel connected with personally.  I attend a church that is passionate about Christ and challenges me to go deeper in my walk with Him.  I live in a great community.  My needs are all met.  Most days I can honestly say I love my life.

I really did not know that the weight ledge (2)I was feeling was an unspoken, unrecognized feeling that I really just felt like giving up.  It has been a rough ten months emotionally.  My mom went from being in assisted living, to a nursing home, to hospice from September to January.  Outside of my husband, my mom has been my rock and closest friend since 2001 when my best friend from childhood passed away.  Although I worked full-time, when I wasn’t at work I was at my mother’s side after she was placed on hospice, or I was at church, with my grandkids, or sleeping.   Then March 25th she passed away and life went on for me.

Fast forward three an a half months, a few people who know me well are still asking if everything is okay especially on days when I seem particularly off.  I think they are overall.  I mean, yes I know I’m still grieving my mother’s loss and some days are rougher than others, but I have activities that I am interested in doing.   I allow myself those moments, and then I move forward.  Then I am sitting in a prayer meeting, and in prayer from another comes words that pierce my heart and soul.

Had it not been said in the way she said it, I would not have thought it pertained to me, but God used words from my past to speak to this unconscious problem in my life.  I didn’t realize how close i was to being spent completely.  Yet God did.  He knew my heart, even the parts I haven’t shared with others.  In those words I realized that I was teetering on the edge of discontentment.  That discontentment was eating away at my heart and soul.  Although I had not taken any negative action, I realized I was on the edge of either a breakdown or a breakthrough.

wp-1468884074532.jpgHe sent someone who couldn’t possibly know to speak words I needed to hear, to jolt me back to reality.  He gave her words to speak that would get my attention, even though they were spoken in a general prayer.  He cares enough to shake me awake, even when I don’t realize I am dozing.  I would have continued out on the ledge, had He not shown me the danger I was in there.

Going back is sometimes easy, it is the path we have already taken.  Despite any obstacles we have faced, we know that we were able to overcome them.  Going forward into the unknown, it can bring uncertainty.  There are times in our life where things seem blurry and although we can’t see the danger ahead or around us, if we are sensitive to His voice He will show us even when we are not  aware.  He will help us see danger that it is our future so that we can take precautions and not suffer the consequences of not heeding his warning.

Where did it go?

The old-time churches with tall steeples and a cross that pierces the sun, the beautiful stained glass that m light dances off of as the services progress, tall white pillars standing majestically against the red brick building. It is nostalgic for me. I will stop to take pictures of churches as I drive, just because I have a love for church architecture.

Tonight driving through town, I passed multiple churches. Lights off inside, outside lights advertising different ministries to mimic the business signs in the community. The stained glass reflecting the local pubs and business surrounding these once sacred institutions. The buildings fade into the scenery, almost undetectable from those secular things around it.

It is a reflection of how far we have come, or maybe how far we have strayed. Christ said “If I be lifted up, I will draw all men to me.” We are busy building buildings, but not lifting up Christ to the people who will fill them. God traveled in the wilderness for forty years with His presence contained in a tent, but we have built buildings over forty years and left His presence behind.

The stained glass once portrayed the love of Christ in beloved scenes from His word, now replaced by the stained glass masquerade of our lives. We walk around pretending to have things all together while we are a broken mess inside. No longer a beautiful masterpiece, just shattered glass pieced together again.

The white pillars stood tall in the community, as the elders of the church also did. There was an expectation that they would not only serve on Sundays and Wednesdays but that they would serve throughout the week. Regular visits to others in the congregation, living life together. They weren’t perfect, but they were involved. They stood out in the community just as the white pillars stood out against the brick. Now it is hard to know who leads as they stay in small packs, closed groups, closed lives.

We were called to stand in unity, instead we stand in division – the churches and denominations. We fight against those we are called to love. Christ sent us to the nations, but we have failed to share Him with our neighbors.  We build majestic buildings, and leave behind empty souls.  Where did the Church go?

Why has all this happened?

“Sir,” Gideon replied, “if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? And where are all the miracles our ancestors told us about? Didn’t they say, ‘The Lord brought us up out of Egypt’? But now the Lord has abandoned us and handed us over to the Midianites.”
Judges 6:13 NLT

The beginning of this chapter begins with “And Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord.”  They did their own things for seven years and then were surprised at where they found themselves.  As I read this scripture, I thought about how many times I have strayed from God and then found myself asking” If God is for me, then why is this happening?”

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Imperfect Christian

We all fit into this category of Imperfect Christians, but for some the imperfections seem larger than others. Not that I’m comparing, but the truth is most of my sin came after I was saved.  It’s a fact I’m not proud of, but one I think others can relate to themselves.  It’s something I have struggled with as I walk out my christianity.

I was saved at an early age.  I don’t doubt my salvation. I was baptised shortly after and really served God those early years. I know that foundation kept me when I strayed.  My parents got out of church and within a few years I followed. Years of rebellion followed.  I rebelled not just against my parents but against God, as well. At the time, I didn’t think of my behavior that way but looking back that’s where I was.

I was broken and hurting, but I thought I was in control. There’s a saying that hurting people hurt people. Sometimes that hurt also includes oneself.  Then four years later I got back in church. A single teenage parent, who continued to live a sin filled life. I was learning on a different level, but I was still actively sinning. I was riding a fence, but God knew that.

Four years after I  got back in church, my world came crashing down again, and my anger towards God rose. He knew again I would fail. This time I went to church some, but not consistently. I went back to my fence where I felt more safety.

Two years later, God started peeling back all that I had piled on me during those ten years. I didn’t even realize that it’s what He was doing. I wasn’t in church. The town I lived closed the church for the summer. I just knew I was hungry, and God met this imperfect Christian at home.  I started getting in to the Bible for myself. I started reading the Bible daily to my three young children. I taught them to memorize Scriptures, just as I had done in my childhood.  I started writing what God was speaking to me through His Word. Over the next sixteen years God has continued to do a work in my life.

God started working on the outward things first.  I stopped drinking, smoking cigarettes, popping pills, smoking pot, being promiscuous, cussing.  I thought those were the big things, but they were just the visual ones.  Then God started working on my anger, my attitude, my insecurities, my deepest hurts and fears.  Those took much longer, and I’m still a work in progress.

Even now I look at my life and cannot fathom how much God had changed my life.  Over the years I have known that I wasn’t living up to my God-given potential, because I know what God brought me out of and He won’t waste it.  God showed me  this week that I struggle more to accept His Grace because I walked away and lived a sin-filled life after I accepted Him as my Savior.  I know who I am in Christ, but I have allowed my past after accepting Christ to stand in the way of walking in who He made me to be.  I feel unworthy of the call on my life, because I walked away.  This is a fairly new revelation that He has continued to deepen the past few days.

I was listening to Ron Carpenter in a message titled Misfits.  Although it is a series, this first message was talking about the unlikely people who God used to build the kingdom.  He made the comment that “God brought you into the family knowing that dirt came with the treasure.  God is not afraid of your dirt.”  My mind immediately went to the scripture in Matthew about the Kingdom.

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I took a geology class and know that many gems are formed when a combination of minerals come together under the right circumstances.  They are generally formed under pressure and then have to be mined out of the ground.  They appear to be nothing initially, but with the right ingredients, under the right circumstances, pressure and time a true treasure is formed.

God knew all the dirt that would surround me when He paid the price.  He placed me where I was suppose to be.  He allowed me to experience all the circumstances that shaped me.  He allowed me to be shaped by the pressures that would try to destroy me.  And He let the passage of time work in His favor.  God knew that I was a hidden treasure and He paid the price with His Son.

I asked God for a scripture or character that could help me understand that I am still usable for His purpose.  I know that the Bible is filled with imperfect Christians, but for two days I could not think of one who walked with God, then walked away, then was used by God.  God gave me three familiar characters.

In my quiet time God helped me relate my current circumstances back to the Bible. Moses was called by God.  He was saved and raised by royalty after a few years with his natural family.  After Moses accepted his calling, he killed a man.  Then Moses ran for his life. Forty years later, God found Moses walking in the wilderness and brought Moses back to accomplish saving the Israelites.  From an insignificant beginning, to knowing His purpose, to murder, to an encounter with Christ, and then an expansion of His ministry.

Then there was Jonah;  Jonah was a voice piece for God a prophet. Yet when Jonah was called to visit the  community of Nineveh, he did not approve.  He ran. God took Him through some storms, and then met Jonah in the belly of a whale. Ultimately a city was saved.

Peter was a Christian, one of the twelve closest to Christ.  Yet even walking with Christ for three years, at Christ’s darkest hour, Peter walked away and denied Christ.  Jesus knew Peter would, yet He chose Him anyway. Peter was used by God when they were together, but after Peter walked away, God used Peter more and expanded His kingdom.

I still don’t know all that God has planned for me, but I accept that He can and will use me for His Kingdom purpose. I still have a lot to learn, but God paid a price and will continue to deal with my dirt until His treasure is found.

 

 This blog is being shared on Tuesday at Ten. A linkup where you have a week to write about a given topic.

 

Old Things

Last week in a discussion with family, I was faced with the stark reality of the person I used to be. My mind was flooded with memories, but most details were gone. I realized how much of my life I have truly forgotten, even things I should know.  Things I once knew like the back of my hand.

Part of me is struggling to remember.  It’s not even important.  The details will change nothing in my life today.  It just bothers me that I can’t even recollect the information – as if that part of my life is gone.  It is a short period of time, a year.

As a counselor, I would probably call it a coping mechanism. My psyche’s way of dealing with all that I have done and been through in life. Things not in line with who I am, the person I have become through the years.  I don’t remember anything particularly traumatizing that would have occurred during that time.old-book-1352963_1920

As a Christian, I know it’s God’s grace making me a new creation. Old things have passed away. Over the years my life has changed so much as I allow Christ to make all things new. My mind has been renewed and the pathway in my brain has been retrained to see the good, pure, lovely, etc.  Those details don’t fall in to that category.

I realize that there is a reason that God has removed those details from my mind.    Those old things are no longer important.  They do not define who I am.  I am a new creation in Christ.

 

 

Helping without hurting

There has been a lot written lately about when helping hurts.   There are so many people who want to meet the needs of others. They are well-meaning, but they don’t realize that there are times when our desire to help hurts the other person. As a social worker, I have seen this first hand many times, and I have been guilty of the same.

Christmas is people’s favorite time to give. People love even more when they can be part of the gift-giving process. I remember how excited one group was to help provide Christmas for some children. I was overwhelmed by the response. The children were elated by the gifts. The parent was left appreciating the gesture, but wishing she/he could have helped choose and/or purchase the gifts, even if he/she really couldn’t afford it.

Sometimes these gifts open up doors of expectation for children that the parent cannot meet. Sometimes these gifts hands-216981_1280remind a parent that he/she cannot provide for his/her child. As a society, we are trying to set right for a child the inequality that life has brought, but for the family that inequality continues when the holiday passes.

I have also seen well-meaning people think that a check can fix things. Money goes a long way in meeting people’s needs, but if people are not taught how to manage money the problem continues to arise. Paying to keep utilities on, or for a month’s rent or deposit without knowing the story behind the need can create a cycle of dependence. Sometimes people fall on hard times unexpectedly. A layoff, an illness in the family, or an accident can derail a family who lives paycheck to paycheck. Helping someone who has an unforeseen problem so they don’t fall behind on their bills can keep a cycle from starting.

However, a poor decision can lead to lasting consequences that weren’t counted – like the man with felony battery who fought with his wife after one to many drinks. His crime was decades ago. Long after the wife forgave him, the felony was still attached when employers ran his background check. The type of employment that provided for his life prior to the felony is much different from the life he has when he finishes paying for his crime. A check may help for a moment, but ultimately the family is going to have to be retrained about living on less. The need will not go away after one month. He needs job training for something that could earn him a comparable wage despite a felony record. He needs someone to look at the circumstances and give him a second chance.

There are also people who live in a poverty mentality. They don’t know what it is like to have enough, so they take anything they can get their hands on, even if they don’t need it. They will take every resource you can give them, but will do very little to get themselves out of the bad situation. Someone can give to them this month, and a month or two down the road they will have the same need. Someone can get them in to housing, but they can not maintain it. They really don’t know how to get themselves out of a bad situation, even if someone explains the process. These people are the ones that appear to take advantage of help. People in this mentality take a lot of work. They need someone to come alongside them, show them the way, and hold them accountable as they learn an alternate mindset.

There are also times that as we give, we give out of what we think we would want in a situation. We do not consider what the person really needs. I have met countless families who lived in a manner that I would not choose to live. Yet, if asked to define their needs, the answer is rarely tied to what I think it should be. I think they need more habitable housing; they see a need for a fan. I think they need a reliable car; they need a bike because it’s cheaper to maintain. People do not have to live like I think they should, they need to be given the opportunity to live as they choose and define their own need.

Unfortunately there is not just one story, not just one way to meet a need, and not one way to know if helping is really helping and not hurting. People in need rarely look beyond their need. People who want to give rarely look beyond the current need. We often see what is in front of us and look for the quickest solution. We patch holes instead of turning off the water at its source, or worse making new holes through our attempts.

So what is the answer?

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