Met by Attitude

I was struck with the attitude in responses I heard in this passage this morning during my quiet time.

attitude

One day as Jesus was preaching on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, great crowds pressed in on him to listen to the word of God. He noticed two empty boats at the water’s edge, for the fishermen had left them and were washing their nets. Stepping into one of the boats, Jesus asked Simon, its owner, to push it out into the water. So he sat in the boat and taught the crowds from there. When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Now go out where it is deeper, and let down your nets to catch some fish.” “Master,” Simon replied, “we worked hard all last night and didn’t catch a thing. But if you say so, I’ll let the nets down again.” And this time their nets were so full of fish they began to tear! A shout for help brought their partners in the other boat, and soon both boats were filled with fish and on the verge of sinking. When Simon Peter realized what had happened, he fell to his knees before Jesus and said, “Oh, Lord, please leave me—I’m such a sinful man.” For he was awestruck by the number of fish they had caught, as were the others with him. His partners, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, were also amazed. Jesus replied to Simon, “Don’t be afraid! From now on you’ll be fishing for people!” And as soon as they landed, they left everything and followed Jesus.

In one of the villages, Jesus met a man with an advanced case of leprosy. When the man saw Jesus, he bowed with his face to the ground, begging to be healed. “Lord,” he said, “if you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean.” Jesus reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” he said. “Be healed!” And instantly the leprosy disappeared. Then Jesus instructed him not to tell anyone what had happened. He said, “Go to the priest and let him examine you. Take along the offering required in the law of Moses for those who have been healed of leprosy. This will be a public testimony that you have been cleansed.” But despite Jesus’ instructions, the report of his power spread even faster, and vast crowds came to hear him preach and to be healed of their diseases. But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer.

One day while Jesus was teaching, some Pharisees and teachers of religious law were sitting nearby. (It seemed that these men showed up from every village in all Galilee and Judea, as well as from Jerusalem.) And the Lord’s healing power was strongly with Jesus. Some men came carrying a paralyzed man on a sleeping mat. They tried to take him inside to Jesus, but they couldn’t reach him because of the crowd. So they went up to the roof and took off some tiles. Then they lowered the sick man on his mat down into the crowd, right in front of Jesus. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the man, “Young man, your sins are forgiven.” But the Pharisees and teachers of religious law said to themselves, “Who does he think he is? That’s blasphemy! Only God can forgive sins!” Jesus knew what they were thinking, so he asked them, “Why do you question this in your hearts? Is it easier to say ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or ‘Stand up and walk’? So I will prove to you that the Son of Man has the authority on earth to forgive sins.” Then Jesus turned to the paralyzed man and said, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and go home!” And immediately, as everyone watched, the man jumped up, picked up his mat, and went home praising God. Everyone was gripped with great wonder and awe, and they praised God, exclaiming, “We have seen amazing things today!”

Later, as Jesus left the town, he saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at his tax collector’s booth. “Follow me and be my disciple,” Jesus said to him. So Levi got up, left everything, and followed him. Later, Levi held a banquet in his home with Jesus as the guest of honor. Many of Levi’s fellow tax collectors and other guests also ate with them. But the Pharisees and their teachers of religious law complained bitterly to Jesus’ disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with such scum? ” Jesus answered them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners and need to repent.”

One day some people said to Jesus, “John the Baptist’s disciples fast and pray regularly, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees. Why are your disciples always eating and drinking?” Jesus responded, “Do wedding guests fast while celebrating with the groom? Of course not. But someday the groom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast.” Then Jesus gave them this illustration: “No one tears a piece of cloth from a new garment and uses it to patch an old garment. For then the new garment would be ruined, and the new patch wouldn’t even match the old garment. “And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. For the new wine would burst the wineskins, spilling the wine and ruining the skins. New wine must be stored in new wineskins. But no one who drinks the old wine seems to want the new wine. ‘The old is just fine,’ they say.”
Luke 5:1‭-‬39 NLT

Peter said, “It won’t work, but I’ll try because You said.”

Then the leper said, “I know You can, but might not be willing for the likes of me.”

The friends said, “Lord we had to get Him to you because You’re the only option He has.”

The Pharisees were like, “We’re too good for those sinners, and you say you’re the Messiah so you should be with us, not them. And your followers should act like John’s.”

That’s the attitudes I read, and realize I hope I am like the friends, but I can handle being the leper, but have certainly been like Peter and the Pharisees.

The friends and the leper both approached with desperation. All in faith, the friends expecting, the leper humbly hoping. Jesus met both requests, a touch of His hand, a touch of His Spirit. Immediate miracles for all to learn about and witness.

Peter answered in doubt, but obeyed. Jesus met him where he was. Miracle performed and Peter was humbled. Jesus spent 3 years helping Peter truly overcome his doubt-led obedience. When Peter was filled with the Spirit, all doubt left.

The Pharisees were filled with judgement and comparison. Jesus met them where they were too with words of counsel and wisdom. They were not willing to be humbled or listen. They saw no change to their circumstances – Jesus continued to eat with the sinners and those in need.

God will always meet us where we are. A touch, a word, a miracle, or council. We determine where we are at. Will God be met by attitude of expectation, a humble hope, doubt filled obedience or with judgement and comparison from you?

Advertisements
Posted in Hope | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

I am

I am a native of my community. I was born and raised in the same local place. Then so moved away and spent a little more than a decade out of state before finding my way back home. That also describes my relationship with God and church. I grew up in church, from the time I was two until I hit my teenage years. Then I moved away from God and church for about a decade, until I made my way back to first church and then God.

There’s a song that we sing here at Ignite, Reckless Love by Cory Adbury and Bethel music. It says

“O, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God

O, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine

I couldn’t earn it, and I don’t deserve it, still, you give yourself away”

Everytime we sing it I know that there’s other people who feel that applies to everyone but them. I relate because that’s that’s how I felt so many times. GOD CAN NEVER LOVE ME. HE CAN NEVER USE ME. He might be able to save me, but that’s probably better left until later and I would start listing my labels from the past. How I saw myself. How others saw me. What I had done or not done and what had been done to me.

I am downright viciously mean.

I am promiscuous.

I am a teen parent.

I am divorced.

I am homeless.

I am the child of a sexual offender.

I am a rape survivor.

I am the one that walked away from God.

I am an alcoholic.

I am a drug addict.

I am a bad wife.

I am a terrible parent.

I am not important.

I am unequally yoked.

I am an orphan.

I am an outsider.

I am not good enough.

I am unqualified.

I am not smart enough.

I am not talented enough.

I am alone.

I am ….fill in whatever keeps you from receiving God’s love, grace and forgiveness.

Those are just a few of the things that kept me bound. Things that if I felt too convicted I would toss up to God as a reason He couldn’t cover me. Or things that would play over and over in my mind if I started feeling that maybe God could love me.

God’s reckless love can reach you, regardless of your history or your current circumstances. There is no mountain too high no obstacle to big. God puts up roadblocks trying to steer us to Him. He spends decades trying to get us to do things His way. He uses subtle things that whisper His loving care, even when we have walked away. He places people in our life to be His hands and feet to love us and support us so we can find our way to Him.

It hasn’t been an easy road, but it has been every bit worth it. I still have areas in my life God is working, but that’s okay. I have been completely clean from drugs for over 17 years. God restored my marriage, and we will celebrate our 20th anniversary next year. My children dont rember being homeless, but even now as adults they know where home is. I have a job and career where I enjoy helping people who are walking through difficult times. I have seen reconciliation and restoration in my family in all five generations that were living.

This year my two daughters and I got a tattoo with the simple words “I am” The only one who can complete that sentence for any of us, is our creator, the great I AM. And for most of us, that sentence will be rewritten many times as God refines us. And it is a sentence that can already be filled with so many truths from God’s Word.

The truth is, none of us deserve what Christ did one the cross for us. Not Mother Teresa, not the Pope, not Billy Graham. Not me and not you. We can not earn His love, His forgiveness, or His grace. But it is given as a free gift for us to take, receive, and put to use.

God offers the free gift of eternal life. You only need receive His forgiveness, and allow His grace to be used to transform your life. It may not happen overnight, but if you learn that His ways are for your benefit you will end up with a testimony like mine, which is “I am forgiven, I am loved and I am blessed.”

Posted in Faith, Hope, Restoration | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Time to…

The hills of Santa Maria are teaming with rolling acres of farmland.  Even in June, there were fields in different stages of harvest.  It was far from what I expected, but as I listened to the stories from my aunt about the work that her family of origin did in the fields, it took on new interest for me.  She talked about how hard the work was, and how my mother quickly found her calling in service away from the harvesting.  I could relate to my mom in that, I would much rather serve others than do physical labor.

 

 

As we were driving around the community, I asked “What do they do during off-season?”  She explained that if the workers were good, there really was no off season as there is always something to do.  There are seasonal workers, but the majority of farm hands, if they are good, they are kept on year round.

I grew up and live in a culture that wants immediate results.  I want my “fresh produce” all year-long and even if it has to be frozen to meet my needs.  My work is only driving to the store and preparing it in the manner I wish to partake.  Generally it can be from store to table in less than 30 minutes; whereas signs and menus in Santa Maria touted  farm to table options.

As we passed field upon field, I pondered our conversations. I thought about how Jesus spent so much time talking in agricultural terms.  I believe that much of that is lost in our culture today.  Most people, myself included, don’t have agricultural knowledge.  We talk about seeds and harvests, and never think about the time or work between the two.

It is no wonder that there has been a stall in Kingdom progression over the decades.   We expect “convert to transformed life” in 10 easy steps, over night success, and immediate results.  We don’t say it out right or  out loud, but we definitely back up those ideologies with our expectations and unspoken messages.  I find myself doing this in my personal life, instead of offering grace for areas where God is still working on me.

As laborers for the Kingdom, we want to see the seed planted spout quickly, but we never consider the layers of soil that it has to breakthrough.  I figure if those doing actual work for the food on my table have to labor year round, that it is like God looks for me to do the same.  If seeds take time to sprout, I need to give myself and others grace to start seeing change occur.

We want to see growth expediency, but don’t know the growth cycle from germination to fruit.  If seedlings take time to grow after sprouting, growth may not happen overnight in my life or those I am ministering to either and fruit may come slowly in some areas. I look at the plants in my home and know sometimes they can look pretty hopeless; with a little care and attention during those times, they usually come back more vibrant.

We want to see reproduction of fruit when we don’t even know how long it needs to be on the vine before harvest.  Sometimes reproduction can happen early in the cycle, just based on the excitement and change of a new believer.  There are so many factors in reproduction – it is not just dependent on one thing.

I have to often remind myself that after thirty-four years, I am still a work in progress in so many areas.  This became so refreshing as  I looked out over the fields.  Year after year they go through all the cycles from preparation, planting, feeding and watering, growth, harvest, reproduction and repeat.  My life goes through those cycles too, just as I help in each of those steps in the life of others.  It doesn’t mean I’m broken.  It doesn’t mean I’m not making progress or that I am not in relationship.  It just means that wherever I am in the stage, it is time to be there and let God work.

 

 

 

Posted in Faith, Hope | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Rearview beauty

Sometimes the most beautiful scenes are in the rearview mirror looking back on our lives.

We have been driving most of the evening, leaving San Francisco and heading south towards Pismo Beach. We had hoped to reach the beach by sunset, but alas it was not meant to be today. Instead as we rounded the curve, and my attention was focused eastward at what we presumed to be a large fire, with smoke billowing over the rolling hills.   I have always been fascinated with fire, but the idea of the fires of California being close to me, I was not so sure about.

As I was focused on the fire to the east, I heard my sister pipe up from the driver’s seat “Look back there.”  The sun was setting on the rolling hills behind us. And while I couldn’t capture the beauty, with the moving car, the lights, and the bumpy road, the hills were lit up with shades of yellow, orange, and red as the sun slowly faded behind us.

I might not have been able to capture it, but I did get to experience it in the moment. It was beautiful to behold. She got to experience it completely through the rearview mirror.California sunset

I realize life is often like that too. So often we get so distracted by everything going on around us, that we miss the beauty of life. It is only in looking in the rearview mirror that we are able to see the beauty that we have left behind.  Like the diamond that is left after the pressure, or the refined gold left after the fire.

As I look back at my life, those times where I found myself most distracted is where God brought out the beauty of what my life is meant to be.  The lessons that I learned, looking back, are some of the tools I have used to help others the most.  As I look at the changes that have occurred in my life, those changes were brought about in the times I was most distracted by the world going on around me.  I would be focused on one thing, when God was bringing about a change in another area.

When I was focusing on the issues in my marriage, God was refining my temperament.  When I was focused on my career, God was drawing me closer to Him.  When I was focused on parenting, God was changing my heart.  As I was taking care of my mother, God was tearing down the walls of self-protection.  Looking back, those are some of my most beautiful memories in life.  I sometimes missed it all in the moment, but I can appreciate the beauty from the rearview mirror.

Posted in Faith, Restoration | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Projects

We placed an offer on a house in March. It was an unexpected decision, but felt right. As I looked at the pictures of the house after we made the offer, I told my husband that the kitchen table we have didn’t really go with the home. I have an old Nostalgia Oak Pedestal Dining Table that my father bought my mother. They have both passed away and really didn’t leave a lot behind. I have not been able to part with the table as it holds a lot of memories for me.

20180402_204139I told my husband I wanted to refinish the table and chairs to match the new home, with the stipulation that if the end result is not what I want, we would buy a new table. I  can’t fathom not having this table.  Although, honestly it has never been my style, despite buying an identical one when we bought our first home.

I am not really a crafty person, but I am a sentimental person.  I really had no clue what I was doing, but I started the project after watching a few videos on YouTube.  It was not as easy at the videos make it look.  It took much more time and effort than I anticipated.

I stripped the table and chairs with a chemical stripper and scrapper, some part came off easy.  Other areas were resistant to everything I tried.  Then hand sanded each part, although probably not as much as I should have.  I realized this after I started painting.  I painted the base of the table,  and the chairs.  Each step of the way, I would think they were 100% covered only to find out that many spots were still missing.

Along the way my daughters helped me as they sensed my frustration and knew how important it was to me.  Eventually, when I got to the top of the table I had to step away and let my husband finish the top.  I could not let go of what I saw in my head.  The finished project I love.  As I moved it into our home, I knew that it was just as it should be.

 

As I reflect on this “little project”, I thought about how it symbolizes what God has done in my life.  I like to think that there is just a little work He needs to do in me, but each step of the way more of the project is revealed.  Thirty-four years into my Christian walk, I know He still has more work to do in me.  I am thankful He saw pass what I looked like on the outside and knew that He could give me a makeover to turn me into what He wanted.

I watch the Christian videos and the quick steps to success in your Christian life.  It is so much harder to walk out in real life.  Dying to flesh, just when I think it’s dead, I realize there is another layer that needs to be removed.  Christ’s blood covers me, but I realize there are a lot of times that I try to hide areas that I have not allowed Him to cover.

There are times that Christ has brought other people into my life to help me get to the next stage.  God uses other people because at times, I would just wander around in the wilderness for forty years with the same issue, never making progress.  He brings others into my life that will offer a fresh perspective or challenge my complacency.  There are some areas that God has placed other people to bring about a complete change in my life, so positive influences, others negative, but the result is the same – taking me to another level with Him.

tableWhen I look back on my life, I see the areas where God has done the most work.  There are some areas of my life that are hardly recognizable to me.  I had someone ask me the craziest thing I had ever done.  I still haven’t answered because that is so very hard to pin down as the person I used to be.  I finally told the person I didn’t want to ruin their opinion of who I am now. God has made me completely over.  I know I’m still a work in progress, but He’s made a place for me in His house, and for today, I am just as I should be.

Posted in Hope, Restoration | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Habits

I have a bad habit.  I never thought of it as one until this week, but there it was staring me in the face, across multiple settings.  I suppose I have always done it, as a child, I was the youngest of five siblings.  I thought everyone knew everything, except me.  I learned to be a good listener so I could “be in the know.”  However, I have a personality that values privacy;  I learned to isolate, so that not everyone would be “in the know” about me.

Somewhere along the way, the social butterfly who only isolated for self-protection when needed, became all about self-protection.  I have tried to tear down the walls over the past five years, but realized that they are ever-present over the past few weeks.

I know that I tend to keep areas of my life separate, when I lived in a small town it was necessary just to be able to refresh and to maintain confidentiality.  I have tried to overcome that desire over the past few years since moving back home, inviting parts of my life to over lap.  I still tend to back off when I do that, in part because I want others to connect with the bigger cause, not just follow me; but other reasons are harder to explain.

When I learned about the Enneagram, I was so excited to hear that it is just part of my personality and not some deeper seeded thing I have not yet discovered.  The truth is, I am generally the same person regardless of where I am, so I am can’t really define the need to keep things separate.

Despite knowing this about myself, I still tend to think that I am an open book.  There is not a part of my life I won’t talk about, if it is relative or someone asks a question.  I can openly talk about the good, the bad, and the ugly parts of my life.  I  realized, most people don’t ask questions.

The first came in a conversation with someone from church.  I have been attending church with them for almost a decade.  I taught the person’s children in children’s church class, for several years.  The person caught me before church, and mentioned not knowing I was married.  Now, my husband doesn’t go to church with me, so I understand a little.  He has been to several services and other church activities over the years  and I have always wore my wedding ring.  The conversation that followed was encouraging as the person heard the testimony of our journey in marriage, which was something that the person had been praying for in extended family.

The second happened in an innocent conversation with my coworkers.  Part of me feels honored about what followed, the other part made me was a little hurt at how little my coworkers know about me.  It started with a Facebook post that said something along the lines of “Those who know me best would say I love____”.  The answers that followed quickly for each coworker were a chorus of voices along the lines of certain animals, certain foods, hobbies, etc. When it came to me there was a pause and then “The Lord.”  Absolutely true.  He is first and foremost in my life.

The insecure thought immediately popped in my head “I would hope to say the same thing about the majority of my coworkers who are also professed believers.” which I did say.  After they finished and thought a little more one mentioned volunteering and my grandchildren as alternatives.  I suppose in thinking about it, I don’t talk about myself much.habit

The last was more of a personal observation than someone else making me aware.  I have been feeling pretty terrible for about the past month and a half but have continued to go on with life as normal.  Initially, I blamed my symptoms on refinishing my table, then moving and getting settled in our new home.  As I continued to feel bad, I isolated myself, very few people knew how bad I was really feeling or the extent of my symptoms.

I don’t generally talk about not feeling well, because I believe in speaking faith.  Too often, people respond with general comments of  concern that are not in faith but instead plant seeds of worry.  When directly asked, I answered and I was encouraged to go to my primary doctor immediately.

Proving my point, three different people who became aware of my symptoms  were diagnosing me with major problems.  I finally went to the doctor, and have some significant vitamin deficiencies but otherwise all other testing was within normal limits and the images didn’t cause the doctor concern.  Having to take off work, I needed coworkers to cover me while I stepped out for my appointment and then follow-up imaging, my coworkers were shocked at how bad I had been feeling or for how long it had been occurring.

I thought that I have been insulating myself, I didn’t realize I was really still isolating myself.  It is hard to be known when old patterns of behavior keep you from connecting.  Habits that are created over a lifetime often feel like they are changing even when little really is.  I am not sure that I am ready to break the habit completely, although I will try a little more to connect when I would usually just back off.

Posted in Faith | Leave a comment

Stalled

The word leaped from the reading that I was listening to this morning, Christine Caine’s new book Unexpected   “Stalled.”  I don’t remember if the word following was faith or hope, listening while I get ready for work often means I listen to some books over and over to get the full impact; but the epiphany that “stalled” is where I am at and have been for some time was clear.  I am at a standstill.  People on the outside can look and see that I am “productive” but on the inside, I feel stalled.  I know there is more, and I want to press on the gas of my emotional, spiritual, physical and even career life but I feel like I am inadvertently stopped.

My truck recently, and in the same spot three times, has stalled.  I need to take it to the dealer and have them check the computer codes, but in the moment I turned my truck off and then turned it back on.  Each time it restarted.  When I called the dealer the maintenance staff told me that generally a stalled vehicle needs some type of attention.   They didn’t seem to believe that it just turned right back on for me (Maybe that is just God’s grace for me.)  When my computer stalls, I generally start with turning it off or restarting it.  Most computer technicians recommend starting there if there is a problem.

www.restoringvoice.comMaybe this book holds the answers to help me figure out when it happened that I stopped moving forward in the trajectory God placed before me.  Maybe it can help me identify what I allowed to stall me out and why I have allowed it to continue for so long.  Maybe it will offer the sufficient challenge I need to fix the issue and move forward.  However, I suspect that it will not be that easy and that God used the book to bring focus so that He could answer the when, what, why and how to my problem.

I don’t know how to turn things off in my life and restart where I am; yet, I know God does.  I don’t doubt that I am where I am supposed to be at this moment.  I believe that even if I am where I am suppose to be that there is more that I should be doing for the Kingdom in my life, in my career, and in my journey with God.  Not necessary works, as I am productive, but refined focus of what I am doing and stepping out in the gifts and talents that God has been developing and refining in my life.

You never know when or where God will speak.  Or how He can use one word to spark a fire within.  I love that in the rush of getting ready in the morning, that He would  speak a word through a passionate Australian Christian activist writer to make me pause to consider where I am.  His grace is sufficient wherever we find ourselves to reach out and draw us into deeper pursuit of Him.

 

Posted in Faith, Hope | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Plank

I am getting used to God speaking to me about my behavior when I think that I have been wronged personally. Maybe I am the only one who gets a righteous indignation about certain behaviors from others. That is where I have found myself today.

Moving is taxing on any relationship, I’m told. My husband and I have been fussing at each other, some days more than others, even in the weeks leading up to our closing. I am not sure how people deal with the uncertainty of real estate for a long period of time. We went from starting to look in March to closing two week late at the end of April.  The fussing has been building over the past two weeks as we moved into our new home, with packing, moving, cleaning and unpacking.

https://restoringvoice.com/2018/05/13/the-plankWhile I know that it is not true, I have been telling myself that I’ve been doing most of the work. I found myself getting extremely agitated about it, especially when I would engage in a project only to have my husband need my “help.” Sometimes it was a legitimate two person thing, but much of the time it would be a “Hand me that.” or “Where is ___?” that could have been resolved without taking me from what I was doing.

Then I found myself focusing on his complaining. He didn’t like where I put certain things. He didn’t like that I was working on hanging stuff up while he was working on something that would take two of us at times; the rest of the time I was just standing there feeling useless. I only focused my attention on his negative comments.

Tied to the complaining was a specific type of complaining that tends to bother me the most. Complaining about, and while, doing something nice for someone else. If I needed his help, he would complain about how I was doing it or how much he hated it. In my opinion, the complaining completely nixes any positive feelings I have about the act of service; mind you, one of my top Love Languages is acts of service. I don’t believe that you can play a martyr before, after, or during an act of service – paid or volunteered.

So imagine my surprise, when I was talking to God about my complaints, and He pointed back to me. As I was covering the long list of things I had been doing while my husband worked on two projects and that my husband didn’t seem to appreciate my effort, He started speaking to me about my words. Maybe as you read my complaints, you saw my heart. I admit I didn’t in the midst of it. The very things that were driving me crazy with my husband, are the very same things I do. My righteous indignation was because I was complaining to God instead of to my husband until I finally let it out on him too.

I realized that while I was focusing on the speck in my husband, it was just a small reflection of the plank that was in my own eye.  God was using him (As He often does) to bring about change in my life that is needed.  I am grateful that God doesn’t respond to me as I did to my husband, but instead He allows me to get hyper focused on the behaviors of others that bother then me, and then shows me the speck I am focused on in them is a plank in my own eye.

In discernment I see, that it is so much easier to focus on what someone else is doing instead of what I am doing wrong. I expect my husband to cater to what I want to do at the moment, yet it can’t always be about me. Sure God wants to hear my thoughts, but I am sure He gets tired of my complaints about things. When I give in to what my husband wants to do, I can’t grip to God or my friends about it as if I am a martyr for one time out of ten doing what my husband would prefer to do.  It’s a big plank to remove, but I see it now.  Allowing God to reveal it to me and seeing His grace cover my short-comings while He works it out in me is where I am now.

Posted in Hope | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Doing Culture

I hear a lot about culture in my life. I live in what is called a melting pot area as we have people from all different nationalities pour into our community on a regular basis. Many people want those moving in to the community to conform to our culture.  At work we talk about the culture of our ministry as part of a Catholic Health System.  At church we talk about the Kingdom Culture that our congregation desires to operate in fully.

Merriam Webster’s Definition of culture is 
a
: the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group; also : the characteristic features of everyday existence (such as diversions or a way of life) shared by people in a place or time

b : the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution or organization

It’s a pretty big standard for such a little word.  As I was at church for our prayer meeting, my pastor started talking about culture and I was taken back to a meeting that I had been part of just the week before at work where one of the Sisters (Catholic, not relative) talked about culture.  She shared a quote from a coworker that had always stuck with her:  “It is only a culture if everyone is doing it.” – Dave Wixson

CultureThe quote really caught my attention because, I had recently finished reading a book by John Bevere “Killing Kryptonite.”  He talks about the community of believers and gives examples of multiple scriptures that show how practiced sin by some believers can negatively impact many.   Mr. Bevere wasn’t talking about holding nonfollowers of Christ accountable to live by Scriptual standards, but of holding those within the body of Christ accountable to not practice sin.

I like to think that I don’t walk in “practiced sin.”  However, I can have some strong opinions that can lead to division, at times my grey thinking could lead to heresy (this has recently been pointed out to me), at times I put other things in front of God, and I overeat too often.  All of these are mentioned in the Bible as sin or works of the flesh.  I’m just one person in a much larger community.  That community is a small part of a much larger, Kingdom culture.  I never stopped to think about how my behaviors impact those around me that are living in community with me, or the culture at large that I adhere too.  Yes, at times I might see my negative attitude be picked up by someone else around me.  However, I never thought about someone else truly paying the price (other than Jesus) for my practiced sin.

With that thought in mind, it is a tall order to think about conforming to a Kingdom Culture, or even my work culture.  There are areas I fail completely as I mentioned above and days where I just don’t feel like putting forth the effort to pretend all is good.  I tend to recluse as much as possible when I’m in that mood.  I can put forth the smile of things are okay to those I am serving, but those I serve alongside know when things aren’t okay with me.  I can shine brighter when my smile is genuine and my help is sincere.

I realize that true culture comes from unity.  Unity of mind and action.  Not that everyone does the exact same thing, but that all actions lead to a common goal.  Unity in sharing the gifts and talents that have been entrusted without fear, without comparison and without competition.  Walking boldly in our strengths and allowing others to pick up where they are strong.  Genuine unity comes from a shared belief that the cause, the purpose, the joint venture is worth the impact on my own personal behavior or life to conform to something bigger than myself.  It is hard to build unity in a world that is so focused on “my rights”, “my way”, “individuality”, “Self-fulfillment” and “self-growth.”  Those are counter-culture, and yet indicative of the society that we live.

True culture means that I am vulnerable enough to let others know where I am struggling.  It means that I have to be transparent.  I means that I have to walk in close relationship with others.  Those things are very difficult for me to do.  It goes against the grain of my personality. I am not good at showing weakness.  I like privacy.  I need alone time.

True culture means  accountability.  I have to be willing allow others to hold me accountable for living up to the set standard.  I can not be offended when someone points out an area where I am falling short.  I also have to be willing to hold others accountable in love.  I admit I want to be held accountable, but very few people are willing to stand up to my strong personality.   As much as I want it, accountability can be hard to hear when it is more than just a confirmation of what God has already brought to heart.  And at times, I find it hard to hold others accountable in love because I get the attitude “Why don’t you get it already?” or worse “If you would just do what I said, this would move a lot faster.”  Accountability isn’t holding someone to my standard, but to the standards that God has set (Or my workplace in that sense) and giving grace in those areas that are not so black and white.  I have seen lately that there are a few areas where I have been walking in the gray area that it’s time for me to change.  Not sin, but not at the level that God has called me to for where He is taking me.

Culture is an interesting thing.  There are people who embrace culture fully.  There are people that speak it, but don’t necessarily practice it completely.  There are people that practice some things regularly and rarely acknowledge other parts.  There are people that are recognized as leaders in a culture, and some that are still learning.  There are generally people who are trying to create new beliefs and characteristics to keep a culture alive through generations.  There are also those that buck up against the standard and want others to change.

What makes the basic beliefs and characteristics of the culture, are the parts that everyone is doing.   At work, our culture was defined by the Sisters before us that started the ministry.  As a Christian, the culture was defined in God’s Word and through the life of Christ.  Each person involved has to decide to live the culture to make it effective and lasting.  I want to be a person who truely embrases doing culture.

 

 

 

Posted in Faith, Hope | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Dash

I found myself the other day thinking that possibly my friends that had not made it to adulthood had the better life.  I am not suicidal or wish for death.  Those of us left behind, we miss them; those who are now gone from my life are in the presence of God.   All the heartache I have had in my life, they were able to miss by leaving this world so early in their lives.   As I paused looking at the headstone of my parents, this thought came into my life.

The dash in my life is where God gets to be manifest.

Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary defines manifest as:

1 : readily perceived by the senses and especially by the sense of sight

2 : easily understood or recognized by the mind : obvious

dashWith the dash of my life, I have the opportunity to allow others to readily perceive God by their senses and especially by sense of sight.  It should be just as obvious to those around me that I am God’s child as it is that my children belong to me.  Other’s minds should recognize and easily understand that there is something that make me different, and should be drawn to the One who makes that difference in me.

I don’t get to sit at His feet just yet as those who have passed away do.  However, I am able to live with His Presence in me and be His hands and feet to the world around me.  I have the opportunity daily to let Him manifest though me.  I admit I get it wrong, a lot.  There are a lot of times that God is not manifest in me.  Yet, His grace covers the dash of my life.  And the times that I have paid attention to that manifestation have been some of the greatest blessings in my life.  I believe there are more times though, that I don’t see what others can see.  I say that just based on comments to me of other’s perceptions of me.

The dash doesn’t just represent His manifestation through me, but also to me.  The dash  represents the seeds that have been planted in my life.  For over forty years I have had people who came along side me with teaching, training, encouragement, support and love.  Sometimes for just a brief moment.  Other times for decades.  Yet each time, their dash joined mine.  Together, in relationship God was manifest.  Now every time those lessons or words of encouragement come to mind and strengthen me when I am weak,  He is manifested.

When I pause to really think about that, I am overwhelmed with His presence and gratitude.  Some of those people may never know how their lives touched mine, the impact their obedience to God made to me.  I have been blessed several times in the recent past to share with some of those other life dashes just how they impacted my life.  I am always amazed at the timing of God as our paths cross again, even if just briefly and that He allows me to speak back into their lives.

The dash also represents the seeds I have planted in the lives of others. The ones that have not yet manifested.  The people I have been granted an opportunity to minister to through the years.  The children, the parents, the coworkers, and friends that have pulled from the resources that are in my life.  Or those who have unknowingly had seeds dropped into their life through me that one day will spring forth from their life.

The dash, it may never seem long enough.  There are times where I wish I could just have one more day with friends, my parents, my grandparents and other family and friends that have died.  Yet I am sure, in all their love for me they would not trade where they are for one more day with me on this earth.  They are all now free from heartache and tears.  Their dash has ended, but the seeds they planted remain.  One thing that I have, that my friends did not have, is a longer dash.  It  may not be longer on the gravestone, but I have a longer time to live it out.  It is up to me how much I allow Him to manifest.

Posted in Faith | 2 Comments