Sunday, October 22, 2017

it's not Me

Do you have an old sin, the one that was so dog-gone awful you have hid it from everyone? It was long ago and you keep telling God you were wrong and you're sorry but you just can't get any peace. And when the topic comes up or that song comes on you think about it. It haunts you. You get peace for a while but then it's back.

The Lord has sworn by Himself,  
“I will never forget anything they have done...
In that day...they will fall, never to rise again...
I will kill with the sword. Not one will get away, none will escape. 
Though they dig down to the depths below, 
from there My hand will take them. 
Though they climb up to the heavens above, 
from there I will bring them down. 
Though they hide themselves on the top of Carmel, 
there I will hunt them down and seize them.
Though they hide from My eyes at the bottom of the sea, 
there I will command the serpent to bite them. 
Though they are driven into exile by their enemies, 
there I will command the sword to slay them. 
I will keep My eye on them for harm and not for good.” 
(Amos 8:7, 9, 9:1-4)

This was my devotional for today. I had never read this before and it is horrifying. I wondered, does this apply to our nation? Worse, does it apply to my life, my sin, my future? Is there something I need to do, something I must repay to heal my soul and make me free?

Often this is how I feel. I think about my day and mourn over the harsh words, the missed opportunities to do good, the wasted time on frivolous things. Or I think about the past and blame myself for things I had no control over. Surely I should consider my day and repent of sin, but I forget to rest in my Savior and His peace.

Today, Jesus made me stop and hear His heart:

The voices that are reminding you of your sin, it's not Me. It may be Satan the accuser. It may be your unbelief.  But you can be sure it's not Me. 

Those of us who have accepted Jesus and as our Savior and Lord have been forgiven all sin. Past, present and future. He has thrown them away as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12). There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). Jesus had already completed everything needed for my complete forgiveness. There is nothing left undone, nothing I need to do, it is finished! Reading the rest of the chapter shed light on the true purposes and heart of God.

But all the sinners will die by the sword—
all those who say, ‘Nothing bad will happen to us.’ (Amos 9:10)

God will judge. He will punish those who reject Him, who assume He is powerless or that He does not exist. God loves us but we have the power to choose to trust in Him or not. Those who choose God have a much different future as the last part of the chapter shows. 

“In that day I will restore the fallen house of David.
I will repair its damaged walls.
From the ruins I will rebuild it and restore its former glory.
And Israel will possess what is left of Edom and all the nations I have called to be Mine.”
The Lord has spoken, and He will do these things.

Hoping the house Jesus is building for me has a back yard
looking like this...
“The time will come,” says the Lord,
“when the grain and grapes will grow
faster than they can be harvested.
Then the terraced vineyards on the hills 
of Israel will drip with sweet wine!
I will bring My exiled people of Israel 
back from distant lands,
and they will rebuild their ruined cities 
and live in them again.
They will plant vineyards and gardens; 
they will eat their crops 
and drink their wine.
I will firmly plant them there 
in their own land.
They will never again be uprooted 
from the land I have given them,”
says the Lord your God. 
(Amos 9:10-15)


Thank you Father for reminding me of your faithful forgiveness. All I ever needed to do was to say YES, I am Yours and You are my God. Amen!

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Dealing with Your Very Draining People (VDP)

How do you deal with a very draining person? Maybe they are demanding or destructive; or maybe they are merely disappointing or difficult. What is your usual reaction?

Do you bark back in anger? Or do you silently fume? Do you change the subject or cut the phone call short? Or do you try to please and accommodate so they will stop the rampage? Do you try to talk it out and explain your position? Or do you deem the conversation as hopeless and complain to your sister instead?

Maybe your tactic changes depending on the person in front of you. Do you accommodate your boss but later take your pent up emotions out on your kids? Do you vent on your mom but are sweet as pie to your boy friend? Do you have a new friend who you talk things out with but that old friend from high school, well, you know how that discussion will turn out so why bother?

This was our discussion this week at church and also in our small groups. We talked about the people we experienced as draining and our reactions to them. What was the right reaction? For the answers, we searched the gospels and read some of the interactions Jesus had with draining people in John 3:1-21, Matthew 12:1-15 and Luke 14:1-14.

We saw Jesus' reaction to people wasn't a reaction at all. Jesus knew what He was about and He was not deterred by other's questions or actions towards Him.  He spoke to people from the heart about the real issues (John 3:3, Luke 14:7). He used illustrations to help others understand His position (Luke 14:6, Matthew 12:11). There were times when He walked away (Matthew 12:14-15) but that was due to His being obedient to the timing of His Father. It was not intended to avoid conflict. Actually, He invited conflict at times, and used the conflict to point to truth (Luke 12:3).

Jesus listened to the people who came to Him with questions, no matter what their motives were. Jesus knew when their real plan was not to obtain answers but to trap Him. Nevertheless, He did not back away, but answered them directly with truth and used the opportunity to reveal important information regarding the kingdom of heaven (Mark 10:2-9, Matthew 22:16-22, Luke 12:13-21, Luke 15:1-10, Luke 18:18-30).

When the time came for Jesus to face the most destructive people, He prepared Himself with prayer (Luke 22:41-43). He did not do what would come naturally as a human man, but what His Father wanted. He prayed and received not only direction but also supernatural strength.

Why do you react as you do to the draining people in your life? Do you act as your parents modeled or are you doing the exact opposite because of how it worked out for them? Were you hurt or rejected at a prior time of life and swore to yourself never to be hurt like that again? Do you act to avoid conflict and anger because "Christians don't get angry" or do you confront others harshly because "Christians must stand for truth”?

I confess I usually assess the situation and try to use the approach that would work out for the best (read: "for my benefit").

Like the ocean can be raging or calm
depending on the wind,
so we must allow the wind of the Spirit
to control our reactions to others.
Jesus did what He saw the Father doing. Jesus was controlled by the Spirit. Nothing anyone else did controlled or deterred Him. And the really good news is the very same Spirit lives inside of us when we commit our lives to Christ.

I came to the conclusion there is no specific right or wrong way to deal with difficult people. Each person, each situation, each time is different. Sometimes it is best to confront with love. Sometimes it is good to try to understand and be understood. Sometimes it is best to walk away and cool off. Sometime it is good to submit to another's ways. Sometimes it is better to say "this time, I want to decide." Sometimes it is even best to be harsh (Matthew 23:1-36, John 3:13-17). God knows which is best and He desires to tell us, moment by moment as we walk with Him, pray to Him, listen to Him. And we can count on His angels to strengthen us as well so we can do His will.

Sometimes as we obey God we find things don't work out exactly as we would like. That is where faith comes in, when we learn to trust God will work all things together for good (Romans 8:28). We obey God and trust the results to Him.

And of course, we need to ask ourselves (and God) the important question: in this situation, is the draining person ME?

Just saying.

And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. (1 Thessalonians 5:14)

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Fire and Floods

Fire and floods
Earthquakes and hurricanes
Mass murderers and maniacs with nuclear missiles

And our reactions is to point fingers at each other
We criticize, we rally, we march, we carry cleverly worded signs
We tear down statues, we tweet and troll
As if anyone is at fault, as if anyone of us could fix this.

We need to fall on our knees
We need to mourn and repent
We need to cry out to the only One who can heal our world in the ancient prayer:

Lord have mercy
Christ have mercy
Lord have mercy
Christ have mercy and grant us peace.



Thursday, August 31, 2017

Perfect

At worship last night, my thoughts were scattered and rambling as I sang out the words to the songs. Even as the music blasted in my ears and the floor shook, I was distracted. Then we sang...

You're a good good Father, it's who You are
And I am loved by You, it's who I am
Because You are perfect in all of Your ways....

And God, as He is always faithful broke through my chaotic mind and He said....

Perfect, only I am perfect. I am the good, good Father, standing at the open doorway, My eye always on you as you romp and play outside. I smile as you dirty your hands, thinking with delight how I will wash you later.

But your deeper sins, as I watch them unfold in your life, My stomach turns, not in revulsion or even disapproval but in sorrow as I truly understand the pain you are causing yourself and others. I understand your weakness, I created you! I have already supplied the solution.

O come to the altar, the Father's arms are open wide
Forgiveness was bought with the precious blood of Jesus Christ  

My eyes never leave you and I long for the time you come home to Me in prayer. I will hold your precious face in My hands and say, My daughter, how much I love you! 

You are My princess but never forget it is I alone who am perfect. In My time, in My power, My Spirit is perfecting you until finally you will be with Me forever in perfect glory. I do not need your works or your service to prove your love for Me. I want your attention. I want to give you My power. Come to Me, I long to give you all you need and also Myself. 

Come, My child. Come. 


Sunday, July 23, 2017

Three Easy Steps to a Perfect Marriage

Disclaimer: Ok, the steps are not easy and there are no perfect marriages but these will help a lot!

1.      Pray.  God is invested in your marriage and not only wants it to last forever but designed it to be joy-filled and life-giving. Talk to Him about everything in your marriage through prayer. Pray together, pray alone, pray when you have troubles, when you argue, when you are confused, when you feel lost, when you wake up, before you sleep. Pray without ceasing.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.(Phil 4:6)  The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. (James 5:6)
        

2.      Submit.  To freely give the other spouse the opportunity to have their heart’s desire is an act of love and a sign of strength on your part. It is the true path to life and peace. Submit is what Jesus did constantly when on earth all the way to the cross. He asks us to do it because He did it first. Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Eph 5:21)

3.      Believe the Best.  Be generous with your assumptions and your attitude toward your spouse. Believe that they love you, want the best for you, desire the marriage to last, have your best interests at heart, aspire to become more Christ-like even as they fail again and again. It is not so much about trusting them, but trusting Christ in them, the hope of glory. Your attitude towards them will greatly affect your relationship so never assume the worst, but always believe the best. Love…is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs… It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (1 Cor 13:5,7)

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Best Diet Ever

I am not much of a dieter, frankly because I like food much more than I ever wanted to be thin. Plus I have NO will-power. However, as I grew older my metabolism slowed and frustrations from life heightened causing me to eat too much, too often and too thoughtlessly. The numbers on my bathroom scale began to rise at an alarming rate until I found myself the same weight as the peek of my first pregnancy -- with no baby to show for it! It was harder to move around, harder to do steps, harder to fit into my already too-large size clothes.

I tried to diet again, and again, and again, failing each time. As I said, I have no will-power. I started to pray. As time went on and the numbers on the bathroom scale continued to creep up, I asked friends to pray for me too. To my horror, I gained more weight. I prayed more earnestly finally coming to the realization that only God could help me.

I realized that the problem was not the food. The problem was me and I needed to repent.

I needed to repent of thinking I could eat anything I wanted and as much as I wanted.

I needed to repent of eating because bagels and muffins or chocolates and cake were left on the break-room table at work, or because my husband bought a quart of ice cream, or because one of the sweet women in my church group brought a lemon cake to our meeting.

I needed to repent of eating in response to stressful situations and turn to God instead, my true Comforter.  

Once I repented, and God in His mercy developed self-control in my heart, I was able to stop eating the sweets and the carbs that turned into sugar the moment I swallowed them. Once I stopped eating them, I no longer craved them.

Still not bikini ready like my babe Deb
Another enemy was discovered in my journey. It was my bathroom scale! At first it was my friend, revealing the error of my ways with an ever increasing magnitude. Once I started eating better my scale showed my progress downward, slowly but thankfully downward. Then one morning, for no apparent reason, I stood on my scale and it displayed the exact same number as the day before. I panicked. That is when my Beloved Jesus whispered to me,

"You are doing the right thing. Continue to obey and trust the results to Me."   

My new diet is repentance. We live in a land of plenty -- too much in fact. We are killing ourselves with extravagances that tempt us with their appeal and kill us with their true essence. It is all as King Solomon said, vanity and grasping at the wind. Yes we need to eat and God has given us all we need to enjoy. But too much of anything becomes an idol an a curse that rots our bones.

Beloved, let me continue to trust You and the goodness You give me. Let me discern when the thing I desire is from Your hand and when it is Satan tempting me. Give me the self control to flee from sin as I should. Remind me that my part is to obey You and that You can be trusted with the results. Help me have faith to believe all You have for me is good.

Good to eat. Good for my body. Good for my life. Because You are good.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Who is God? Who am I? And how do I relate to you?

Tonight we received certificates to show we completed our counseling courses require to serve in Liquid Church's Care Ministry. We were asked to answer three questions from the perspective of what we learned in our course work. 
This is that essay. 

God is perfect; perfect power, perfect wisdom, and perfect love. Because God is love, He created humanity to love Him back. He did not want forced, coerced, manipulated love so He created us with free will. With the freedom to love, God also gave us the freedom to turn away from His love. We call this sin.

Even before God created the world, He knew we would sin so He had a plan to reconcile us to Himself and be with us in perfect peace forever. His plan spanned millennia, generations and nations. God is patient, willing to bear the pain of our rejection and of watching our self-inflicted tribulations as we ran from Him and His perfect will. We could not save ourselves even after God gave us His Law and His warnings through His prophets. Even when we desired to be righteous, we became self-righteousness. We were hopelessly dead in our sin.

At just the right time, Jesus came to save us. He left paradise to meet us in our broken world. He walked beside us, telling us stories, asking us questions, and healing our diseases. He demonstrated He was fully human by eating and drinking, laughing and crying, bleeding and dying. He demonstrated He was fully God by His control over the sea and the rain, over angels and demons, over life and death.

Jesus took all our sin on His own body and paid our debt to God in full. As He died, He proclaimed, “It is finished.” Death could not hold Him, nor will it hold us when we trust in Him. We are truly free now, free to choose God, free to love Him as He always intended.

God adopted me and I am His daughter, beautiful and perfect in His sight. That is how God sees me in His eternal realm. However while I am trapped here in time and space I must still work out my salvation in fear and trembling. I must diligently follow Him and be alert to the evil one as he accuses me, tempts me, and appears as an angel of light.

Now God is our Father so we are one family. I am the sister and my family is vast, from every continent, every nation. I link arms with them, lean on them, help them as they help me. We share God’s truth and God’s love. I love and forgive them. I listen with humility as they point out my blind spots, and I confess and pray for the Holy Spirit’s power for change.

All glory to God!
Before this course, I knew to speak with mercy and tenderness as I point out the blind spots of others. However, now I realize I cannot understand their pain or attempt to help them until I walk beside them as Jesus did. I must enter their world, listen intently, and ask questions. I cannot assume I understand their heart or their situation. I do not know their answers. Only Jesus knows. Only He can see what is in the depth of their hearts. I must be patient and love them as Jesus did, freeing them to change or not, at their own pace, in their own way. Jesus was in no hurry to fix people. He was willing to withstand the pain of watching our trials while He waited for us to be ready to accept Him and His truth. So it must be with me.

We offer them Christ’s stories, the thread of themes from Genesis to Revelation that demonstrate God’s grace and truth. Where does their story intercept with God’s story? Where is God encouraging change at a heart level, not merely our changing our behavior? What truth or mercy of God are we missing or misunderstanding? We bring them to the Holy Spirit and trust God for change in His direction and timing. As we point them to God, we are confident God is faithful. He will use our pain for His glory and give us peace.

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Confession, the Pathway Home

Confession has a bad rap.

It conjures up images of an old white-bearded man pointing a long bony figure at us snarling "repent!" Or the apprehension of a small child entering a small dark closet and whispering the words, "Bless me father for I have sinned." It is the dread of being exposed and seen with our hands dirtied with our most heinous deed. It is the anxious anticipation of your dad's scream, mom with the wooden spoon, or sitting in the principal's office.

That is not God's view of confession. Proverbs 28:13 tell us, Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy. James 5:16 has even a better promise, confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.

Mercy and healing are the sweet fruit of confession.

Jesus paints an even more delightful picture in the story of the prodigal son. The son leaves home, takes his inheritance, and makes a series of reckless choices. He finds himself homeless, hungry and surrounded by swine. It is there that the scriptures tells us he came to his senses. He confesses his sin and in that turning point, he starts on his way home. The son expects punishment.

However, there is no punishment waiting for the lost son who returns to his father, only an embrace of love, tears of joy. The father summons his servants to bring the sandals, robe and ring. The servants knew immediately right where to find these precious items that would restore the wayward boy to full son-ship. Why? Because the father always had them at the ready, waiting only for the son to return to him.

There is no punishment waiting for us either when we confess. God is not waiting to give us penance, as if a few prayers or acts of contrition could erase our sin. No, Jesus paid it all, it is finished, completed, accomplished. Our restoration waits for us to receive it, if we would only come home.

At Aunt Tillie and Uncle George's beach house there was
always a celebration! 
And then there is the party because the father is ecstatic to have his son home. The father instructs the servants: Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

Confession is the privilege of God's children. It is the vehicle for God's mercy, His healing, His celebration. God the Father invites us  His children to come to Him to confess, so that we can be restored.  Because that is what the Father desires, for us to come home, sit at His table, enjoy His presence.

Confession is our pathway home.

To read the entire story of the prodigal son, see Luke 15:11-32.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Prejudice and Transformation

Last Friday I went to the movies and watched Hidden Figures. As the movie progressed I winced as I watched the true story of three women who endured treatment that no human should experience. Prejudice in all it's hateful glory was on display. However, by the end of the movie, the hearts of the most prejudice among the players had changed. Instead we saw understanding, respect, and kindness on the screen. How did that happen? What triggered the transformation?

On Saturday night, my daughter and I watched the 30th anniversary edition of The Breakfast Club. She had never seen it before, indeed it was released before she was born. "Why do you like this movie, mom?" she asked.

Because it too was about prejudice and transformation. There were no people of color in this movie. In fact, they were all white, straight teens in a middle class high school. And yet they found a way to be prejudiced, to put people in little boxes and not let them out. The brain, the athlete, the basket case, the princess and the criminal. But one Saturday they were forced to sit together all day and after they fought and talked and played together they discovered they were not so different after all. Same thing happened in Hidden Figures. Forced to work together in NASA for the common goal of getting a man into space and returning him safely, they discovered they could see past the boxes of man and woman and black and white that they had been forced into.

Our family in Washington DC 
Tomorrow is the day we remember Martin Luther King Jr. He was a great man who fought for liberty and peace. Four days later, the power of presidential leadership passes from our first black president to a white man, a billionaire real estate tycoon who never before held public office. 2016 was a year tarnished and torn by trash talk and bloodshed and bigotry. We remain a nation divided into pieces and more than just black and white.

How do we heal from this?

Like the teens in The Breakfast Club, maybe we need a Saturday detention, a forced time to sit face to face. Maybe we need a common goal like those who discovered they needed even Hidden Figures to help them all succeed.

Maybe if just one of us reaches out  to someone different to listen, not merely to judge or mock but to try to understand.

Maybe me. Maybe you. Maybe today. Let's try that. Are you in?



I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. 
-- Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. 1963

Me too, Martin. Me too.