Thursday, January 30, 2014

Freedom of Speech... Absolutely

Freedom of speech? What a strange concept... We don't have freedom of speech anymore... Well, unless it is a speech written for you and coached by the politically correct police... You may however have your own opinion, as long as it matches the opinion of others... Don't actually have an absolute truth in your opinion or you're wrong! There are no absolutes in this world, we don't allow them anymore and if your belief system is so archaic you do still believe anything absolutely then we will beat it out of you... Not physically but verbally and possibly legally.

It's all about tolerance! Or is it... No... It's all, about complete acceptance. You must accept me no matter what I say or do, no matter what you believe you must tell me my way of living is just as righteous as yours, you must not think anything I do is wrong, remember no absolutes.  You must not only tolerate me, you must validate me. You mustn't only be kind to me but you must sacrifice everything you are if any of it makes me feel uncomfortable. Oh and if you don't agree but keep quiet, that's not enough, I will pull the acceptance out of you eventually, we can never just agree to disagree...  And even if you don't say it, I can feel it and I know what you would say so I will put those words in your mouth anyway... I can talk about the way I live twenty four hours a day until I ware your resistance down to nothing but you, if you speak of your absolute truths, you're an ignorant, hater. But how ridiculous is that!? I mean, we can disagree with someone and still tolerate them, for goodness sake, I love some of the people I disagree with on a weekly basis!  I can ultimately disagree with the way a person is living, in fact, I can hate that person's lifestyle because of what I know it does to them and I can still love that person and continue a relationship with them... Don't believe me, well, I already have... My uncle was an alcoholic, I hated that about him, yes, he was high functioning and always seemed to be in a rather alert state of mind but I knew what that lifestyle would do to him... I loved my uncle, went to his house all the time after school, he loved me. We both knew I didn't like his choice in lifestyle but that didn't hinder the love at all, I was respectful to him and we had a great friendship, he and I both understood that I loved him but that didn't mean I had to fully accept his lifestyle as being right, I didn't even have to like the lifestyle. We can, and must agree to disagree, if we all agreed on everything it would absolve diversity from the Earth.

I know this introduction. Has been unusual, but isn't that the message we are getting lately? Poor Natalie Grant leaves the Grammys and doesn't even state her reasoning but the words are attributed to her anyway, she is a hater, a horrible person because she doesn't sit through something she believes to be wrong... But not only the absolute, it's intolerant of her, I sensitive to her beliefs... Oh but, who cares about her beliefs because she believes there is only one way so her rights don't count?  Honestly, reading about the Grammys and Natalie walking out specifically has stirred something in me again, something I've thought of before but something I've ignored.  The truth is, there are absolutes.

The truth is, believing in absolutes does make people uncomfortable, honestly, even I'm uncomfortable with it sometimes... But that feeling of discomfort is actually called conviction and it's not the same as condemnation... Sometimes they feel a bit alike but conviction is made to help you, to lead you to change, to better you not to discourage or inhibit growth.  The truth is, there is truth. Jesus is the only way, there is only one God and heaven is his home, so if you want to live under His roof you're going to have to follow His rules.  Fortunately, He loves us like children and his rules are for our good. There is one door to His home and the security system is our of this world, the only way in is through that door. Jesus is the door and none come to the father but those that come through Jesus.  I know that sounds a little confusing so let me break it down... To go through Jesus, the door, there is three steps you must take. There are keys to that door and Jesus gave those keys to Peter... There are three keys.  1. Repentance: recognizing your sin, admitting and confessing that sin to God... Asking Him and anyone else you need to for their forgiveness and committing to change. That is the crucifixion of your old self. (Walking up to the door.) 2. Baptism: by immersion in Jesus name. That's the death of sin's power over you and the awakening to a new you! (Stepping up on the threshold.) 3. In filling of the Holy Spirit: God's spirit comes to dwell in you, to help you live a better life, to give you power and strength in your Christian walk. And you know this step has taken place because you speak with other tongues as His spirit helps you... It's how everyone knew in the bible times and still how we know today. Since heaven is a supernatural place you need a supernatural power to get you there and that power is the Spirit of The Lord! Simple. (You're in!)

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Give it a Rest! It's Okay.

I read a friend's Facebook status and caught myself in thought... Not the greatest though but I still thought I'd share it today.  All I really read of the status was "I'm into that paying-it-forward thing..." I though, "yeh, right... Me too... Pay-it-Forward to the government, my boss, my friends, my family... I'm paying-it forward, alright!" Of course the thought is a little tongue-in-cheek and I never feel this way long, the truth is I like to give... Okay, well maybe not so much to the government but I can take pride in my job when it's done well and I love my friends and family so I want to give to them not expecting anything in return.  But then I thought about you, what your thoughts would be... What if, like me, you give and you like to give, you do it with a cheerful heart... But what if you wonder sometimes if you will have anything left...

The thing is, you won't have anything left, you will get drained and your cheerful heart will shrivel into a heart of resentment. You will start just being tired, tired of pouring yourself out and gaining not even respect in return.  You will give and give and give and someday awake to realize you've put your own needs on the back burner so long you've burned away all of the substance.  You'll try to give someday and your hand will extend empty because there's nothing left inside... Or will you.  I normally wouldn't paint such a bleak picture in your mind but today, I think, it's needful... You must see what can happen if you never think about yourself...

I know, I know, we are raised (especially as Christians) to care for others more than ourselves, to give ourselves away for the cause of Christ... But we seldom remember Christ, himself took time alone, time with God, time to replenish... He did things He liked, He sat with friends enjoying a good meal and some laughter... He went to parties and stayed out late... He was always an example to others but He also made Himself approachable and "normal" as He could appear while healing blind eyes, cleansing lepers and raising the dead... I think that's why many missed their messiah, He was too human in their eyes to see the God inside.  People expected Him to come in robes of glory with servants and carriages, not to travel around in linen clothes and dirty sandals, borrowing a place to lay His head each night but Jesus came to seek and to save and to show us how to do the same.  Jesus knew some would miss out on the God inside of Him but chose to show His human side to be real just the same... Why would Jesus do that, how could He not make sure everyone knew who He really was? For you and I... For each moment we need a reminder that it's okay to get tired, it's okay to need something from God to help get you through the week, it's okay to take a break and have some fun with friends, it's okay to be "normal."

You see, Jesus has both given us permission to be human, to get tired, to have fun and laugh and even to just be alone and regain perspective after a busy, stressful journey and He showed us how to do it... That we can be fully human and still reflect the image of God to others.  We can be tired and weary, in need of a friend's hospitality and do so with grace and beauty.  Away with the notion we must float 5 inches off the ground and never be bent over with care, we must never tire and most certainly never show our inner supply is getting low! Don't crack a smile if someone tells you a joke and for heaven's sake don't get caught laughing and having fun! Never go to a sinner's home when they have invited you in for a dinner party, we can't have friendship with sin so we mustn't soil our spirituality with entering a home where sinners live... Reach for them, yes, but from your own turf. Never let anyone see the weakness of needing to replenish and refresh, we must go, go, go at any cost or we are not worthy to be called a true Christian... Where did we ever get those ideas anyway?!  To be Christian is just to be Christ-like...  And if He rested, if He accepted the hospitality of others, if He accepted invitations to dine with sinners and actually make himself so available and friendly they felt comfortable enough around Him to want Him there, if Jesus took time alone, if He spent time with God asking for help on the journey, if He laughed and had fun with his friends, if He appeared so normal then part of being a Christian is doing the same.  It's okay to take time for yourself, to laugh, to show yourself friendly to EVERYONE on their turf as much as on your own, it's okay to need God to get you through a rough spot, it's okay to admit you don't want to do something He's wanting you to do and to ask His strength to help you follow Him closely, not only is it okay, it's just as much part of being Christ-like as giving is... Because it's the only way you will not end up in the place I described before.

"After sending them home, he went up into the hills by himself to pray. Night fell while he was there alone."
Matthew 14:23 (NLT)

"But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed"
Luke 5:16 (NIV)

"After Jesus had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.  As he approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, 3“Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it." 
Luke 19:28-31 (NIV)

"Jesus sent Peter and John ahead and said, “Go and prepare the Passover meal, so we can eat it together. Where do you want us to prepare it?” they asked him. He replied, “As soon as you enter Jerusalem, a man carrying a pitcher of water will meet you. Follow him. At the house he enters, say to the owner, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is the guest room where I can eat the Passover meal with my disciples?’ He will take you upstairs to a large room that is already set up. That is where you should prepare our meal.” They went off to the city and found everything just as Jesus had said, and they prepared the Passover meal there."
Luke 22:8-13 (NLT)

Jacob's well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon."
John 4:6 (NIV)

"By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work."
Genesis 2:2 (NIV)

"Later, Matthew invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. But when the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with such scum?When Jesus heard this, he said, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do..."
Matthew 9:10-12 (NLT) (in context).

"Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine."
Luke 22:42 (NLT)

Friday, January 17, 2014

Leap of Faith... Let's be Realistic

First let me begin with an apology that I am a day late in posting this for you! I have lots of excuses I'm sure you care not to hear... But, I didn't have internet at the time I would normally post (lunchtime) and I went straight to a friend's home after work was finished and did not get home until too late. So I am sorry and I hope you don't hate me now, haha!

The other night I was reading Matthew 14... I came across a familiar story I've heard people explain and expound upon many times... But I noticed something I hadn't before... It's the story of Jesus sending his disciples in a boat before him while he went to pray... While on their journey, actually smack-dab in the middle of it, a storm blew up.  The storm must not have been wimpy because it was enough that even the professional fishermen in the boat thought they might die.  Now, I've seen a few storms on the sea on t.v. and been mighty glad I've never had to face one from a boat, somehow all the security a boat has to offer seems so flimsy in a storm!Already fear laden one of the men noticed something on the water... It looked like a person walking, but we all know people can't walk on water... It must have been a ghost! At least that's what they thought and on top of the threat of the storm, well, wouldn't that be just great, imagine you were on the boat, we know now what was going on but if you have any imagination at all you can put yourself in the position of being part of what was happening and not knowing what was going on or how it would turn out and you can't tell me you wouldn't have been pretty much out of your mind with fear. As a child I was terrified at the thought of a ghost or spirit and even thought I was taught not to believe in ghosts I'm not so sure that teaching would have held up to seeing something walking on a stormy sea at night coming toward me... I can just picture it now, either I'd have fainted or I would be like the lion in the Wizard of Oz "I do believe in ghosts, I do believe in ghosts, I do, I do, I do, I do, I do!"

Now that the mood is set, imagine this apparition you're viewing calls out... Tells you not to fear, I've always though "oh, that's nice of you Jesus.. Calming them all like that." Realistically I don't know what I was ever thinking... Like would you just think "oh, okay, never mind, it's a friendly ghost. Why was I worried at all, common over Casper!" Ugh, probably not... My mind would probably be more apt to follow a thought of "oh, he's trying to trick us... Then he'll eat us!" But I suppose, maybe they somewhat recognized the voice over the thunder and crashing waves when He said "it is I." Peter must have noticed something... Or at least out of disbelief he uttered "If it's you bid me come." Only one word in return "Come." But here's the deal, great, all I get is a come... No defence as to why I should believe it's really Jesus... No proof, no calming the waves before I decide to get out of the boat? I would like to think I would get out at just one word but let's face it, I'm pretty sure I would have been looking for more and you would too... Not Peter, he just gets out of the boat!

This next sentence is the part I hadn't really noticed or thought about before; it says "when Peter had come down out of the ship..."  First when Peter came down... I guess I had always pictured a row boat size or something, most likely just because I never really thought about it...
But this would have been a boat large enough to carry thirteen people, minimum, that's not a dingy... The boat was large enough to be called a "ship." Getting out of a boat that size is not just a step down, you'd have to jump... That means Peter didn't just walk on the water, he jumped on it... Or fell onto it, and the water held him!  Peter literally took a leap of faith off the side of the ship and onto water solid enough to hold his weight and the force of the fall... We always look at the "oh ye of little faith, why did you doubt" and think "yeh, Pete, why'd ya doubt, the water was holding you up, why'd you think four feet out you'd sink... Common, bud, be brave.." First, if it were me (and I'm willing to be, if you were honest, you) I most likely would not have gotten one toe over the side with only a "come" invitation from something that, yes, at best is Jesus but at worst is some sort of imagining stemming from my panic and I'm just leaving whatever hope of safety I have and the fear of sinking would most likely overtake me. So yes, Peter began to sink but he had the faith to take the chance in the first place when we would most likely have been in the boat with the rest of them...  Jesus wasn't angry with Peter for falling but proud of Peter for taking a step at all!  Just like when a child stumbles and falls when they're learning to walk, we don't think or say "I'm so embarrassed to be your parent/aunt/uncle/grandparent, fall again and I'm never asking you to come to me again!" No, we are proud they are trying!

So what did I learn? One, I'm proud of Peter too, no more thinking "why didn't you just trust that the same water holding you up now would hold you up five minutes from now?" but now "I can't believe you did that! I need to be more like you, Pete!" And just as I can now see Peter taking a leap of faith and stumbling, needing Jesus to help him, I need to ask myself in what areas I've been refusing to take a chance because of fear of the stumble... Fear of what the people staying behind in the safety of the boat might think or say... Fear of embarrassing or disappointing myself, others around me or Jesus... Whatever area that is, both for my own life and for yours, we must refuse to allow fear to control us, we must take our own leap of faith knowing that no matter the outcome, it's the leap that really counts!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

I Miss Our Time ("I miss you" rewrite)

Last night at Bible Study we watched a video from 1991... And the outfits! The hair! Sorry, getting off track already! ha!  The video was Because of The Times in Alexandria Louisiana, USA and the speaker was Mickey Mangun. Side note: I love this woman, I mean, so nice, down to earth and her singing is amazing but not because of her voice (which is awesome on its own) but because of the anointing she carries!  I've never heard her speak other than just a couple of announcements or what have you, until last night.. And honestly, my life was changed! She is one of the best speakers I think I have ever heard and the best part, she was so honest and transparent!  Her words and song reminded me of a post I had written a long time ago and although I will never be able to share the thoughts in the raw way Mickey Mangun did, I hope my words will impact you.

"Earlier in the week I was listening to a radio show and it was explained that prayer is when we talk to God; whereas, meditation is when we listen for God to talk to us. 

Later in the week I was at my church kneeling in a seat talking to God... Not saying anything spectacular, just asking to be with Him and sit at His feet, just for a while... I didn't really have anything to say to Him, no petition to bring for His approval, no great requests for Him to fulfil. I kept thinking "all I have to pour out to you is love; you poured out your own blood for me!" I made it known I was listening for His words although He need not speak. I just longed to feel He was with me in the same way you can be in a room with a friend and say nothing but just feel good because they are with you.

He spoke... "I miss you." My response followed something like "OK, Hold on a minute... WHAT!!?? You miss me? Have You forgotten who You are? Lord of all creation, Holy, Strong, All Mighty, First and Last, Never failing, Never changing God... And You expect me to believe that You miss me? Plus, we have spoken in passing lately, any spare moment I am aware of I whisper a couple of words your way... How can you miss someone you are already in contact with? How can You miss me? I've missed Your presence, Your touch, Your closeness; but You have everything, what could you feel you're missing?" I pressed my face into the floor and cried for a while, until I think I figured it out (at least partially). I was in contact with Him, I did speak to Him quickly before sleep found me at night but like it would be with any relationship, that is not quite enough to sustain and surely not to nurture anything. He wants and deserves at least as much from me I would give to any other kind of relationship. I wouldn't live in a house with someone and only speak to them in passing, forget they are sitting next to me and completely ignore them most of the time... So how can I say I love God and treat Him like He's not worth the time it takes to build any relationship?

He does miss me, not because He needs relationship with me but because he desires it. Not to prove His love, I think the cross was enough for that. Not because I don't speak to Him on a daily basis (I do). If I really want to spend time reaching out to people I must spend time with Him in private... Sort of like you know a relationship isn't true when the guy (or girl) only treats you well in private and pretty much ignores you in public. Though I desire to take my hair down and wash his feet like the woman in the Bible (John 11:2 & Luke 7:38), it's not really a physical option. I do desire to have been the last person at the cross and the first to the empty grave on Resurrection day but I can't go back in time. I dream of pressing my face to His chest and while hearing the heartbeat of God say "I love you" like John did (John 13:23) but I cannot. What is it God would desire from me? What can I give to God?"

The thing that was so inspiring about Mickey Mangun's words was the paradigm shift in thinking... It's not about me wanting to spend time with Him but He wants to spend time with me! I've always thought prayer was for my benefit, but it's not only for me, it's for His benefit as well. He calls us like He called Adam in the evening, He wanted to be with Adam and He wants to be with us.  Last night as I was pondering these thoughts from the video I heard Him again... This time it was a question "What do you think Adam and I talked about?" You see, I was wondering what I would say that would be of any interest to Him, if I'm going to spend this time I don't want Him to get sick of me, I don't want to be forever asking for things... So I thought about what Adam would say and these are the thoughts impressed upon me:  Adam had need of nothing, his surroundings were perfect, there were no bad feelings, no sad circumstances, no needs... So there would be no requests.  Adam wasn't called necessarily to "talk" at all but to "walk..." I'm sure there were shared thoughts about a beautiful flower or the melody of a songbird along the path but many strides were surely taken in silent companionship, many strides in listening to the voice of God rather than Adam's own, many strides in complete satisfaction of just being together... And now, He asks you to "come walk with me in the cool of the evening..."

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Action or Intention

Hi Bugsies!  (Yeh, I don't know I was going to type bunnies but I thought maybe "bugsies" was more unisex?.. Starting the New Year off right! ha!)  I didn't mean to take such a long break from writing, I had ideas to write and everything... I just got so busy!  Good intentions, you know how that goes... Then again you know what road is paved with all those good intentions as well and I do not want to be headed down that path... Can I get an "amen?!" ha!
So Merry Christmas, happy birthday to Jesus and then me & HAPPY NEW YEAR! Wow, 2014! I didn't make a resolution this year, why bother? Seriously, does anyone actually make it out of January with resolutions intact? But there are a few things I want to do this year... One only takes a day... Well, unless I fail then I would have to start over and it could go that way all year! I want to go through one full day without complaining/speaking negatively once!  It will have to be a Saturday, I don't think I could make it in the office! ha!  But in all seriousness, you guys should try it with me a day! It sounds easy at first until you think about doing it and you start catching yourself every time you are about to let some little though slip into the world through your words! 
There's one more thing I wanted to leave you with today... Remember those good intentions I had to write for you guys... Well, I've been thinking about them (and some other good intentions in my life) and I was thinking, this year, let's try to get rid of some of the intentions and put them into action... Whatever it is, whether it's a career change, giving to a good cause financially or of your time and talent, volunteering at your church, sharing a word of encouragement, sending a card (this is actually one of my favorites, how easy is it! Plus, since we rarely get mail other than junk & bills who doesn't love even a one line note in a card!? It's pretty much perfect to give or receive!), telling someone how you feel whether good or bad, whatever it is, do it!  No more intending turning into too late, just take that step!  One of my best accomplishments this year was just a conversation, a difficult conversation saturated with tears... But I actually had it, I expressed the emotions and tried to make the other person understand my position without fear of the consequence... After years of silence I decided it was time to stand up for myself and it felt great... Well, not right away but I felt so freed after knowing I would never have to worry about hurting the feelings of the person at the expense of causing myself pain. I was respectful and I still have a relationship with that person but now I know they know how I feel.  So whatever it is you've been putting off let me encourage you to go ahead, even when things don't work out how you would like, even if you don't get the apology you're looking for, you do get something!
So, 2014, we're ready for you! We're choosing action over intention!