There are many things that can be shocking, such as a precipitous drop in the stock market, unexpected news from a relative and sometimes, God does stuff that’s shocking. It seems to me that most of us don’t like stuff that’s shocking, such that we stay away from this kind of thing or we insulate ourselves, to minimize the exposure.
And yet, sometimes, things that are shocking can help us to get out of a rut. For example, I think Jesus was very shocking to the religious establishment in His day. Indeed, He challenged not only their assumptions and traditions, but also their practices and daily interactions:
He ate with sinners.
He associated with tax collectors.
He kept company with the irresuptable.
All of these actions of Jesus were very shocking to various upstanding citizens. And yet what is more importance than the shock value, is the reality that Jesus did all of these “crazy things”, from the premise and core motivation of genuine love. Sometimes, genuine love is the essence of shock value 🙂
I’m writing this post, sitting outside of my hair salon with foils in my hair, looking semi-chic 🙂
And of course, I get some odd looks, people thinking I’m the reincarnated character from “My Favorite Martian”. But alas, it’s just the normal hair dye appointment, where the grey gets covered over & I maintain the look that says I’m at least 10 years than my birthdate would confirm.
And whatever we may look like on the outside isn’t as important as the decisions we make on the inside. Our internal thoughts, emotions, values, decisions and perspective are loads more important than the external image. It’s in my thinking processes where I:
make decisions to be generous,
decide to act from various insecurities,
consider how another may be affected by my words / actions
choose to be afraid or choose to be constructive
So no matter how we look on the outside, let’s be certain we make internal decisions to be generous & loving people. What’s on the inside is what will often regulate what happens on the outside 🙂
My husband and I are celebrating 25 years of marriage this week & that’s a noteworthy achievement! It’s noteworthy for lots of reasons such as:
lots of seasons and changes to navigate: doing hefty careers, an intense baby season, growing in our careers, raising teenagers & a few medical challenges along the road
distinct personalities: we are very different in our personalities, so this requires us to give each other lots of grace, space & affirmation to be unique but complementary rather than combative
prickly insecurities: just because we’re married doesn’t mean our individual insecurities don’t get triggered from time to time; so it’s helpful to recognize such weak spots & decide to nestle into genuine love 🙂
I’m definitely a better person from being married to Reece & there’s no doubt that God has helped us to grow in our relationship over the last 25 years! Let’s remember that being a person who is growing in character, love and strength is a decision we make one day at a time! And be certain to celebrate the milestones along the journey!
In the last few weeks, I’ve learned of various people who have committed suicide and it’s heart wrenching. A few of these individuals have been pastors, which hits even closer to home considering that I’m a pastor’s kid, I’m married to a pastor and I am a pastor. These events have also made me reflect on various people over the years who have committed suicide.
As much as I want to be articulate in this post, I feel so deeply about this subject that I can’t seem to get my words or thoughts into some semblance of order or cohesive progression. So maybe I’ll just free flow with this post and pray that it’s helpful to you, somehow.
More than anything, I hope that you will be gentle, tender and kind with others and yourself, regardless of any external veneer. When we are in a car and see a handicapped license plate, sticker or a “baby on board” sign, we will often give that person a little extra consideration, grace and space because we know there’s a vulnerable / fragile person inside that vehicle.
May we also have the same mindset with the people in our lives, appreciating that each person with whom we interact, has their own internal struggles regardless of what the exterior looks like or how they behave. Let’s be purposeful to:
“Why is He eating & drinking with sinners and tax collectors?” This is what the scribes of the Pharisees asked Jesus’ disciples in Mark 2:16, when Jesus got all cozy with these less than upright scum. The tax collectors and sinners were considered “yucky people” by the religious leaders and zealots of Jesus’ day. So no wonder they questioned Jesus’ decision to not only associate, but also get cozy with such reprobates.
And I’m so thankful for His reply in Mark 2:17, “It’s not the healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Thankfully, Jesus has never required us to get everything clean and pristine in our lives before He would hang out with us. Not only does He accept us as we are, but He makes us better because of His genuine love for us. In the same way, let’s be certain that no one in our lives gets the “yucky” treatment, being ostracized, belittled or shamed. Indeed, Jesus loves us and wants to love through us!
When I was growing up, my dad would take me to garage sales, art galleries, museums, estate sales, hospital visits, nursing homes, etc with an occassional stop at Arby’s for a jamocha shake & potatoe cakes – yum!! So during my childhood, I was around lots of people who were very different than me. It helped me a lot that my dad was very personable & never knew a stranger because I was realtively quiet & reflective.
As an adult, I also have the privilege of getting to meet lots of people from all walks of life. I meet poor folk & prosperous folk, educated & uneducated people, polite & rude folk, insightful & obtuse . . . . Some people are alot like me & we see life from a similar perspective. In contrast, I’m also around alot of people who are very different from me & I love this!! What is wonderful about each person that I meet, is that they are deeply valuable, highly esteemed and massively loved by our Heavenly Father. Let’s be intentional that we cultivate connections with people are different from us & make the committment to express genuine love regardless of our commonalities or differences!
We had dinner last night with a lovely couple & the husband said something profound that is continuing to echo in my thoughts today: We are not all called to talk, in terms of public speaking, but we are all called to listen.
There are times, no doubt, when we need to speak up & be advocates for love and justice. Additionally, some of us have the gift of gab & our personality lends itself to be a “talker.” But let us never minimize the importance of listening – not only with our ears or intellect (so that we can interject a witty comment or some helpful wisdom), but also with our heart, so that we can be attentive with compassion, tender affection and gentle endurance.
In Mark 4:9, Jesus says, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
Right motives but wrong target: when Saul was going to Damascus to arrest the followers of Jesus, he was endeavoring to promote adherence to God’s ways, but he missed the point that Jesus is God. I think Saul / Paul had good intentions, but he was misdirected. Thankfully, God interrupted his plans & gave him some pause to make some major adjustments to his belief system.
I wonder for us today, if we don’t sometimes need to have some adjustments to our goals. Similar to Saul / Paul, I think we can have very noble motives and intentions (adherence to God’s ways), but how we accomplish such noble motives can be tricky. Ultimately, when we are followers of Jesus, we need to make genuine love our motive & outcome because of what Jesus says in John 13:35, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Are there any areas in your life that need to be changed so that genuine love is your endgame?
A fourteen hour day can feel kind of overwhelming & sometimes we have long days, overflowing with demands & activities. Modern living pressures us to stuff our days to the gills so that the more we get done, the better we feel and the more significant we are. Consequently, the idea of a Sabbath flies in the face of the modern lifestyle.
Nevertheless, God instituted a day of rest in each week as one of the 10 Commandments, so it’s on the same level of importance as not murdering, loving God, etc. And I’m writing this blog, maybe to myself more than anyone else because I’m on a gerbil wheel with overflowing days and more work than time. When we keep time and fellowship with God as our top priority, then the speed of life won’t result in a trainwreck 🙂
I’ve never met a person who enjoys failing & most of us avoid stuff that has a high risk for failing. But there are LOADS of people in the Bible who failed, took risks and some had tremendous successes – usually after they had overcome some significant failure hurdles. Some examples would include:
Jacob’s son, Joseph: failed with his brothers, but became 2nd in command to Pharoah in Egypt & rescued his family from famine
Jacob: tricked his brother & father, but went on to become “Israel” and the founder of the Twelve Tribes
Saul / Paul: gave hearty approval at Stephen’s martyrdom & became the largest contributing author to the New Testament in addition to founding the majority of early churches on two continents
When you fail, keep in mind some helpful perspectives:
failing is a verb, but failure is a noun: one can change but the other is more permanent
the greatest lessons often come from failing more than succeeding
failing can the essential fertilizer for redemption
no failure is beyond God’s power & love to transform into beauty, resurrection, abundance and divine success!
No one gets a pass on receiving bad news. And recently, I heard some stuff that was discouraging – the opposite of what I’d been asking from God & I was unhappy with opposite outcome of my prayers. I think it’s pointless to hide my emotions from God or pretend that everything is ok when it’s not. At the same time, the world doesn’t stop just because we get some bad news. So here are a few suggestions that could be helpful:
Tell God how you feel & what you’re thinking. Reading Psalms & Job give some really insightful thoughts & expression to emotions that are raw & real.
Perspective adjustments: sometimes it’s helpful to look at a broader picture than just the bad news
Consider the cause: is it possible that the bad news is a consequence of something you did? If so, maybe it would be helpful to make some course corrections / different decisions.
Choose to trust God: It always encourages me to remember that God uses all things for the the good to those who love Him & stay aligned with God’s purposes
Feel free to pass this along to any friends / family who might be struggling with getting some bad news
I find that life has seasons of serenity and contrasting times of turbulence. The danger of serene seasons is that we can become stagnant or let our values get highjacked by comfort and convenience. In relation to turbulent times, here are a few ideas that you, or a friend, might find helpful:
take a walk – I find that walking and talking with God helps me unload anxiety and gain some helpful perspective
pay attention to your choices – it’s not uncommon for us to seek comfort in turbulent times & sometimes what “comforts” us can actually be detrimental
get some help – this can be a variety of things such as exercise, making a praise & worship playlist, having lunch with a friend, reading a good book, etc
anchor in the Bible – it always helps me to find a few key Bible verses to keep in the forefront of my thoughts. Here are some helpful suggestions:
Ps 55:22, “Cast your cares on Him because He cares for you.”
James 1:2-3, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.
Matt 6:33, “Seek first God’s kingdom & everything will be added to you.”
Luke 1:37, “With God, nothing is impossible”
Philippians 4:11, “. . . , for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.”
“We only have two fish & five loaves of bread. It’s not enough for such a big crowd!!” These were the disciples’ words to Jesus about feeding a crowd of more than 5,000 people. And the observation is valid when we think about the provision in contrast to the need.
I see this mindset in many perspectives in my life. My needs for energy, time, resources, friendships, favor, wisdom, etc often seem to dwarf whatever provision may be available at the time. And as I read today about Jesus multiplying the fish and bread, I was challenged by this whole stark contrast between provision and need. I can belittle and grieve what is lacking or I can give Jesus whatever provision I have, let Him bless it and live in the resulting abundance.
In Jesus’ hands, little provisions can become multiplied abundance!
More than 50,000 soldiers dead all triggered by a concubine running away from her husband. I’m reading the last few chapters of Judges in the OT & these events leave me baffled & cold. They baffle me because even though Israel obeyed God’s directives, they still lost two battles and 40,000 soldiers died.
These events leave me cold because of the human ability to be barbaric: the concubines husband cut her up into 12 pieces and sent her body parts throughout the 12 Tribes of Israel. Clearly, this is a very dark time in Israel’s history.
And there are times / events in our lives when we don’t understand God. Why does an omnipotent God allow atrocities and deplorable behaviors? And how does
God’s loving character reconcile with His judgment? Making these questions get even more personal, why doesn’t God heal various ailments & terminal illness?
Or why does a cheater co-worker get the promotion & we get bypassed, again?
I’m grateful that God is abundantly able to handle our questions, doubts, fears, uncertainties & pain.
While we wrestle with these questions, or different ones, let’s stay in fellowship with God for the simple reason that He holds us together because of His infinite love for us!
Dislocated shoulder, Cambodian spider bite, concussion & maybe a hairline fracture: these are some of the injuries my doctor has diagnosed over the recent years. So whenever I book an appointment, I grimace as I anticipate their amused facial reactions. And I’d prefer to skip the whole experience & be on my merry way, injury free. But life has a way of serving up some hurtful maladies.
Thankfully, we have a Divine Physician who specializes in healing & repairing bodies, emotions, memories, injuries, hurts, etc. Let’s be careful that we don’t allow our tendency to be independent to sabotage Jesus’ healing work. Compensatory behaviors can interfere with divine healing, just sayin’
“Wakey Wakey,” said my body at 4am this morning. When I looked at the clock, my brain said, “Sleepy! Sleepy!”And that’s the challenge with jet lag: you wake up at crazy hours & you want to sleep when it’s time to be awake. I’m just back from Cambodia, so it takes a little time to reset ones clock & let the body catch up to the proper time zone. Getting upset won’t help the reset.
Sometimes, we also need to reset our focus & priorities to what is best aligned with genuine love. Instead of managing to the culture around us or pursuing creature comforts, let’s upset the mundane & conventional to go after what’s exceptional & revolutionary.And we can start today by doing the quote from Mother Teresa, “Do little things with great love”
I’m in Cambodia & have met women here in the sex industry & their eyes are vacant. On the surface, our initial reaction could be one of shame, disinterest, judgment, revulsion or not even seeing her. When a persons eyes seem empty or vacant, it can be easy to overlook them. But we need to see past the surface & we need to look beyond our initial reactions to see a human for whom Jesus died & deeply loves.
No one, including you & me, wants to be ignored, overlooked, shamed, judged nor rejected. With genuine love there is never a scarcity, so this helps us to see beyond the surface. In contrast, there’s always a shortage with transactional love.
Let’s let Holy Spirit Help is to see beyond the surface!
This is part of the skyline for Phnom Penh & it has grown immensely over the last few years!I’m here because God put a vision in my heart to open nightcare centers in Cambodia. Nightcare is my work w Saving Moses where we look after the babies & toddlers of sex workers while they work.At our centers, each baby : toddler receives a warm welcome, bath, clean clothes, dinner, some basic education & a safe place to sleep through the night, all in the atmosphere of genuine love. Without nightcare they would be at severe risk to experience horrific trauma.
We’ve been working here for many years & I LOVE what we do, so much that I want MORE!!
Dream big with God. Let Holy Spirit show you vistas & impossibilities that quicken your pulse. Then take a step in that direction!Of course there are hardships & setbacks, but don’t let these hinder you before you even take a step!GO BIG!!!
“That’s DISGUSTING!!!”Lots of people have this reaction when they begin to hear about the daily living of a sex worker in third world countries. I’m in Cambodia this week with our annual Saving Moses team trip & our nightcare work here (feel free to come w me next year).I love to watch God change various perspectives about people & various hardships / experiences these women go through to say nothing about their babies & toddlers.On a more immediate context, maybe you know people who are making bad decisions, going down an awful trajectory or compromising in unthinkable ways.
Do we choose to revile or reconcile?
Regardless of the decisions people make, we can shame & revile them or walk alongside & reconcile them. Jesus is a great example of reconciling rather than reviling 🙂
I wonder how many wonderful experiences & people we miss because we make these 3 C’s our endgame. Presently, I’m riding in a Tuk Tuk in Cambodia & I can decide which filter in my thinking will be my perspective. I can choose the 3C’s & everything will be hot, noisy, smelly, loud, annoying & repulsive. Or I can choose the Adventure filter & my ride will be informative, interactive w the people around me at stoplights, breezy & bright.
So let’s consider how we think & the possible filters that we use to affect our perspective. And above all, let’s love lavishly & authentically since this is how we are loved by our Heavenly Father 🙂