Tag Archives: love

Doing it Daily – All Over Again

There’s this beautiful song by Train called “Marry Me.”  Perhaps you’ve heard it.  Although it was released in 2009, it was 2013 before I heard it for the first time.

I love the line, “Marry me, today and every day.”  We get married (hopefully just once), and we have that one wedding where we make promises to each other in front of an officiant, God, family, and friends.  There’s music, there are flowers, there’s cake, maybe dancing, and it’s a glorious affair with people looking tres belle and tres beau.  Afterwards comes the honeymoon, a delightful period of romance and spending time together as husband and wife in a great location.

But what happens after the couple comes home, unpacks, and gets back to the day-to-day business of being a married couple every single day in the real world – a world without the flowers, the music, the cake, the honeymoon?  Unlike the pink-edged cream rose I have growing in front of my house, marriages don’t thrive on neglect.  They need daily attention and devotion, as do spouses.

This has to be intentional, though.  We can’t give our marriages our attention today and come back to it in a week-and-a-half.  My husband and I have a routine.  I don’t mind drinking day-old coffee.  Sure, I prefer it fresh, but I’d rather not waste it.  On Saturdays, I pour myself the day-old cup and make fresh for him; on Sundays, he gives himself the old cup and makes fresh for me.  This weekend, though, he did something different for me.  I woke up yesterday and poured the old coffee into my cup before making the fresh pot.  When I went back to the kitchen a little while later, my coffee was missing.  The cup was still there, but it was empty.  My husband had poured the day-old coffee into his cup.  He did that this morning, too.  It’s a tiny little act of service (my love language), but it made a huge impact.  Likewise, each day, I tell him something great I’ve observed about him or something perhaps that the girls have remarked on.  The key isn’t about being flashy or loud in the affirmations, it’s simply about being consistent.  As a result of these little acts – just small little things – we have grown closer and we have become more solid as a couple.

Discipleship requires just as much intentional daily attention.  Jesus says in Luke that if we’re going to follow him, we must take up our crosses daily and follow him.  As this call to the spiritual discipline of evangelism fell on my ears, as we read the corporate prayer of confession in church this morning, it hit me that I really don’t do as much as I’m supposed to.  I don’t  enter into a time of confession of my sins on a daily basis.  I also take the Gospel for granted.  I know it.  I’ve read it (multiple times), studied it, taught it, and preached it.  In fact, because I know it so well, the story isn’t fresh and new, this Good News more something I might meet with the excitement of my tax refund showing up than with joy that rivals fireworks, because, people, this is GOOD NEWS!  The BEST news!  It’s not exclusive, judgemental, or condemning.  This gift is for EVERYone, and I’ll open my arms wide and share it with absolutely everyone.

God loves us, has loved us from the beginning of time.  In fact, God loves us so much that God became incarnate in Jesus Christ and came down to earth to suffer the just punishment for our sins.  And when we accept this free gift of grace, we have eternal life.  No, it’s not physical immortality; our flesh will still age and die.  It’s spiritual immortality – our souls uniting with God in Heaven.  This is the good news.

And each and every day, I need to remember this good news, remember how it’s impacted my life, remember what it has called me to do with it, remember to share it.  Every day, I need to be intentional about devoting myself anew to the Lord, just as I do my husband, and publicly sharing my love for God, just as I publicly share my love for my husband.

Share your story.  Share the good news this week – how God has worked in your life.

 

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The Compassion of a Child

I’m sitting in my home along the SE US coast, waiting for Hurricane Matthew to pay us a visit.  Am I worried?  Not particularly, though I did feel a strong sense that we needed to do more to prepare for this storm than we typically do for others.  We’re prepared to this point, though we’ll have a bit more to do come Thursday and Friday.  Worst case scenario, we pack the kids and the cats into two cars and head west; the cars are fueled sufficiently.

This morning as the girls and I tracked the storm, we saw that some people weren’t so lucky.  As we pulled up the tracking map online, we saw that at that moment, the storm was right over Haiti and eastern Cuba, with a course dead-straight to the Bahamas.  While this is devastating for all these island peoples in the Caribbean, our hearts really went out to the Haitians.  It’s like they can’t catch a break!

So we prayed.  Then H, my seven-year-old who’s diligently saving up for a pink sparkly boat about the size of a massive cruise ship, started outlining her plan for rescuing people in such situations.  This plan involves using her boat to take them to safety on her own private island, complete with three hospitals, just to make sure everyone gets the care they need.  (I guess she’d need more than one island, so she’d have options depending on which direction the storms are going.)

As the pink sparkly boat is still quite a ways off, H spontaneously thought about what she could do now.  Her solution?  She wants to donate some of her shoes and clothes to children in Haiti who’ll lose everything in this storm.  I immediately grabbed my phone and texted the children’s minister at church, asking if there’s any reception for those sorts of donations.  No, but there are organizations, like Hope Changes Everything, who already have boots on the ground and need money to supply the Haitians with exactly what they need, be it clothes, food, or housing.  (That link will take you right to their site, and you can donate there.)

Our minister suggested a yard sale.  Truthfully, I don’t relish the idea of putting together a yard sale, but the weather will be good again, and there are a lot of things we can get rid of for this cause.  While I don’t look forward to the work and administration of doing this, I’m excited, because this is something H can lead off on.

I am understandably so proud of my daughter for having a heart that wants to reach out to people who have been so devastated by this storm.  More, though, is how she’s overcoming her own fears of the storm in thinking about others.  All morning, we talked together about what we need to do to make sure our home and property are ready for the storm.  I presented it as, “We need to be prepared, but we’re gonna be OK.  Worrying won’t change the storm at all.”  Still, though…  She is seven, and she’s not so thrilled with regular ol’ thunderstorms, let alone a hurricane due for a direct hit.  Once she started thinking about how to help others, she forgot to be afraid.

H is such a good teacher, even reminding her pastor momma about some truths that are easy to forget in the hustle and bustle of daily life.

  • We need a change in perspective sometimes.  Things look challenging for us this coming weekend, but they’re much worse for thousands upon thousands of other people who have no evacuation routes and limited resources.
  • When we’re afraid, it helps to think about others and become unafraid.  I find it also helps remembering who controls the storm.
  • What we have can be used to serve other people.  This girl has plans for her life, plans that involve a good deal of education and helping vulnerable creatures.  Yet, her heart remains for people and desiring to help them.

The Bible tells us so many things about children.  “A little child shall lead them.”  “You must have the faith of a child.”  And the Psalmist writes, “From the lips of infants and children, You have ordained praise.”  We oh, so busy adults need to stop sometimes and listen.  The still small voice of God I’m hearing this week isn’t coming from a gentle breath of wind, but from the lips of a little girl.

My Thoughts About Bathrooms, Hate, and Transgender People

I tried to stay silent about this as long as possible, but my “as long as possible” didn’t last very long.  At the end of March, the North Carolina General Assembly convened a special legislative session to push through a law, HB2.  That law was passed in both chambers and signed off by the governor before the 11:00 news.  It went into effect on 1 April 2016, and things have gone downhill since.

HB2, aka, “the Bathroom Bill,” says, among other things, that people must go into the bathroom corresponding to the gender on their birth certificate.  This means that, a transgender male – imagine someone 5’8″ tall, buff, bearded, and visibly male – who has not had gender reassignment surgery or had their birth certificate changed, must go into the ladies’ restroom.  Am I the only woman and mother of young daughters who’s not comfortable with this?  I have nothing against people who are transgender; as I’ve said before, I have friends who are transgender.  My problem is, now I don’t know if that man described above is a transgender male obeying a civil law, or if he’s a sex offender taking advantage of the ease of going into the ladies’ room this law provides in order to attack my daughters or me.  Should I wait and see if he’ll go into a stall, or if he’ll pull out a knife or gun, by which point, it’ll be too late?  So, thank you, NCGA, for creating the very opposite situation of what you claimed to be after and putting ALL us women and our children at risk for sexual violence – not at the hands of people who are transgender who are just in the bathroom to do their business, but at the hands of violent sex offenders who don’t care about laws and never have who can now walk into public bathrooms claiming to be transgender.

As a result of HB2, my state stands to lose federal funding for education.  So much for our General Assembly and governor being “about the children.”  My state has lost businesses.  My state has lost wonderful, tax-paying citizens who no longer felt safe living here who have moved to other states.  North Carolina has already lost a significant amount of revenue and stands to lose billions – yes BILLIONS, with a B! – more.  My state no longer allows people who get discriminated against at work based on religion, gender, age, race, or orientation sue for discrimination at the state level; those suits now have to go to the federal courts to decide, a process which takes an easy three years, far longer than the 180 days the state gives for resolution in such matters.  HB2 prohibits teachers from going into students’ bathrooms in schools.  Hopefully that mean, nasty bully isn’t beating your child to a pulp in the bathroom between classes, since the law is so about “keeping children safe.”

And in the most ironic element of this law of all…  In HB2, the state prohibits individual cities from passing their own anti-discrimination laws and their own minimum wage laws.  In case you haven’t figured it out, yet, the North Carolina General Assembly and the governor are all far right conservatives.  You know, smaller government?  I’m sure they thought it was an abomination when the US Supreme Court decided that gays and lesbians have equal rights and made this federal law the law of the land, totally overstepping states’ rights to govern themselves in this matter.  Yet, the North Carolina government is doing the exact same thing in our state to our counties and cities!

Obviously, when this law came out, there was talk everywhere.  To be honest, I finally had to step away from Facebook for a while, because the plethora of “Pat McCrory saved our children!” posts were going to cost some friendships, and I try to respect my friends’ views, even if I disagree with them.  Over against that was the continued hate speech against transgender people, mostly the result of manufactured fear by the media and ignorance.  Here’s the thing – transgender people are so much like you and me.  They get up in the mornings, go to work, fulfill their responsibilities to their bosses, come home, spend time with family, go to bed.  They pretty much live under the radar, just like the rest of us do.  And they’re fine with that.  In fact, they feel safer under the radar.

The transgender people I know (that I know are transgender) – both women – are smart, attractive, bad-ass, loving people.  One is married; I went to her wedding 3 1/2 years ago.  There, incidentally, is where I met the other, who is engaged.  In fact, I just found out the married woman is transgender about five weeks ago, and the latter, last year.  These women live their lives, do their things, take care of their loved ones.  The fact that I’d known them both so long before knowing their backstories should tell you something:  Neither of them flamboyantly advertised the fact they’re transgender.

And I think that J and S are typical of almost all transgender people in America – and the world.  Caitlyn Jenner is not the face of and spokesperson for people who are transgender, and, personally, I don’t consider her brave or admirable.  Bruce probably went to some extremely private hospital in another country with the top gender reassignment specialists in the world, took a six-month “vacation,” and came back as Caitlyn.  Now, Caitlyn claims she wants to “be just like everyone else.”  Maybe she should give up her cadre of body guards and come hang out in a state where transgender people face police harassment, threats, government-sanctioned discrimination, and threats of and actualized bodily harm – all because her physical, outer self didn’t mesh up with her mental/emotional inner self.

Pediatricians and geneticists are now recognizing that people who are transgender could have genitalia, brains, and chromosomes that don’t match up.  For example, a person could have male genitalia (“look” male), but have female chromosomes and female brains.  Brain science research is now providing us with a reason why transgender people, even from an early age, may “feel” like they’re the wrong gender.  At birth, doctors determine gender only by outer genitalia, not chromosomal testing.

For those of us in the church, this presents something of a theological conundrum:  Did God make a mistake?  Short answer – No.  Do we look at a child with Down’s Syndrome and think that God made a mistake?  Of course not!  Do we think God messed up when a child is born with a deformed arm?  Never!  God doesn’t make mistakes in how God makes us.  Each and every one of us is created in the image of God.  The Psalmist says, “I praise you, because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”  This goes for all of us.  Sometimes, we face challenges in how we’re made – life challenges – and those challenges will either break us if we try to rely purely on ourselves; they’ll give us a source of strength and determination; or through our uniqueness, we will allow God’s love to appear to others.

If I may borrow from my younger daughter’s favorite Disney movie to wrap this up…  “Love is stronger than fear.”  As we are made in the image of God, and God is love, then we also are called on to love our neighbors who are transgender.  You may see them differently than I do, and that’s OK.  But for heaven’s sake, get to know someone who’s transgender.  If you’re going to profess Jesus Christ is your personal Lord and Savior, then (literally) by all that is holy, act like it and love even those who you feel are unlovable.  And you know what’ll happen?  (This is great!)  You won’t be afraid of them anymore, and you won’t hate them anymore, and you’ll begin to recognize all the bull crap the mainstream media and social media outlets are spewing for what it is.  And you will please God.  I’m thinking that’s a win all the way around.

Let me take a moment to direct you to this great article I drew some from, written by a fellow Baptist: https://baptistnews.com/2016/05/13/seven-things-im-learning-about-transgender-persons/#.VzgsSsiznvB.facebook.

What Would Jesus Say Today?

I wasn’t going to touch the Caitlyn Jenner issue.  It’s gotten so much hype already, and frankly, I’m pretty sick of seeing the cover of Vanity Fair in my Facebook newsfeed.  That has more to do with the fact that I can’t stand hatemongering and judgmental attitudes, often accompanying such pictures, and there’s not much that bores me more than entertainment news.  Don’t care – at all.

But oh, the hate!  All in the name of Jesus and in what the Bible says and what God likes and wants and blah blah blah.  I imagine what Jesus would say to those “him followers” who are spouting off about how terribly wrong Bruce/Caitlyn is.  I also imagine what Jesus would say to Caitlyn.  This is based on my reading of the teachings and life of Jesus.

First, to Caitlyn:  “Caitlyn, I love you.  Do you know the Kingdom of God is available to you, too?  I forgive you of your sins.”  I’m not saying that gender reassignment is sinful, nor am I saying it’s not; that’s not the theme of this post.  Jesus forgives all sins, everybody’s sins.

Now, to those Jesus-followers hating and shaming:  “You have read what I’ve said, haven’t you?  You know, that whole ‘Love one another’ (John 13:34) thing?  That was the new command I gave you before I died.  What did Caitlyn ever do to you?  Has she personally sinned against you by becoming female?  Has she threatened your faith, your family, your marriage, your life?  If the answer to this question is ‘yes,’ then let’s talk about the much bigger issues you face and let me heal those for you.  If the answer to this question is ‘no,’ then what’s the big deal?

“What’s that in your eye?  Is that a plank I’m seeing there?  If you have such a huge obstruction in your eye, then how in the world can you see the sins of anyone else?  Deal with your own failings and shortcomings, then you can confront those of other people.  In the meantime, don’t be judgmental of others; though if you insist on judging others, then be prepared for my heavenly Father to judge you just as harshly as you judge them.”

Nowhere does the Bible tell us to judge or condemn others.  Nowhere does the Bible condone hate.  In fact, the only “I hate” statement attributed to God is in Malachi where God says, “I hate divorce and a man who visits violence on himself (could also be translated as “his wife”).*  If God is love, and we are made in the image of God, then how in the world do we as Christ-followers justify calling people names and spouting off hate-filled rhetoric?

God is love.  I John 4 tells us “Love is of God, and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.  He who does not love, does not know God.”  Our words and actions need to be living testimonies to the love of God, not just towards our families, our friends, and people like us (“even the Pagans do that,” Jesus says in Matthew 5), but to all people.  That’s inclusive; if it can include our enemies, then it can certainly include some athlete-turned-entertainer, a man-turned-woman, who, like most of us, will eventually disappear in the annals of history.  Our love, however, will live on to impact others.

* I read this passage in Malachi as God hating the breaking of covenant.  The LORD established a covenant with Israel, one which the Israelites broke.  Marriage is also considered a covenant, hence, the marriage language to symbolize the everlasting covenant between God and Israel and “divorce” to represent the breaking of that covenant.

11 Ways to Live Life More Fully

Hatred does not cease by hatred ...

Hatred does not cease by hatred … (Photo credit: symphony of love)

I am arriving, and I am becoming.  Yet, as we step into 2014, I feel like so much of what I’ve been doing is gelling for me and enabling me to have the fullness of life that God would want me to have.  Here are the things I’ve discovered work.

Spend time each day in Bible study and prayer. I read one day that, if a person spends an hour every day reading about her interest, then she will be among the world’s experts in that topic in three years.  People think I know the Bible because I went to Div school.  No, I know the Bible because I read and study it.  I don’t read it for what I want to get out of it; I read it to learn what God wants to teach me.  (And I’m far from an “expert.”)

Prayer is another way to learn what God wants to say to us.  Don’t just talk to God; good conversation goes two ways.  Listen to God speak.  Be quiet for a while and hush the background noise.  Step outside of your narrow world and pray for others – that neighbor who’s sick, the friend who’s looking for a job, the child who just needs to get through today.

Eat well.  Eat balanced.  Drink lots of water.  Enjoy whole grains.  Embrace green leafy vegetables.  Experiment with different foods.  Try new recipes.  Don’t deny yourself sweets, but don’t overindulge in them.

Hang out with positive people.  I have some amazing friends, both male and female.  When I’m around them, we can talk about different things.  We’re all pretty intelligent and well-read, but we all have different interests and passions about which we’re knowledgeable, so our conversations are vibrant and lively.  I have a couple of older female friends, and half an hour talking with them is like drinking an espresso.  Find people like this.  Enjoy their company.  Learn from them.  Energize each other.

Grudges?  Who needs them?  Let go of grudges.  If you aren’t currently carrying any grudges, don’t start.  It’s called “holding a grudge” for a reason.  Imagine someone handing you a huge, heavy box of junk for you to carry for 6 months or 5 years or 20 years.  It’s their junk, but you think that they’ll feel the hurt in their arms and back if you carry it.  Are you going to choose to hold onto this burden, or simply leave it behind?  If you do hold this heavy burden, how much hurt will they experience from it?  None, of course.  Choose to let that stuff go.  It’s only weighing YOU down.  Your grudge only hurts you.

Forgive.  Forgiveness doesn’t say to someone, “It’s OK that you did that.”  Forgiveness is for yourself, not for the other person.  Forgiveness says, “This is your issue, not mine, and I’m letting this go for my own emotional and psychological health.”  Forgiveness is liberating!

Honor the Sabbath.  Jesus says, “The Sabbath was made for people, not people for the Sabbath.”  While this is one of the Ten Commandments and worthy of attention, we need to realize that today’s working climate sometimes requires people to work on Sundays.  A Sabbath day is meant to be a day of rest.  Take this, whichever day of the week this falls on.  Unplug, check out, spend time with your family or friends or a good book.  Rest and relax so you’ll be refreshed and recharged for the next 6 days.

Don’t hate.  Simple as that.  Grissom, former head of the crime lab on CSI: Crime Scene Investigation once said, “Hate isn’t the opposite of love.  Apathy is.”  Truth of the matter is, hating someone requires a great deal of emotional investment.  Think about loving someone.  Your every moment is filled with that person.  What are they doing?  When will you get to speak to them again? Is he/she having a good day?  Are they well?  You see what I’m saying.  Hating someone is the same way.  Your hate consumes you, occupies your time, drives you, governs your feelings and attitudes and behaviors.  In other words, just as when you love someone, hating someone also infiltrates every aspect of your life.  If you’re not going to love, then be apathetic.  Simply stop caring.  Why invest emotions where there’s no positive return?

Love one another.  Love wildly.  Radically.  Freely.  Liberally.  Enthusiastically.  Out loud.  In the quiet moments.  During the storms and while running towards each other in some figurative flower-strewn meadow.  Love unconditionally.  Love the unlovable.  Love those who hate you.  Love regardless of religion, sex, creed, color, and sexual orientation.  Jesus never put conditions on his command to love.  Why should we make loving harder and more restrictive than even the God of Love created it to be?

Exercise good stewardship over what you have.  Those Joneses who you’re trying to impress?  You know, those neighbors or people from church or folks at work?  They really don’t care what you have.  Don’t run up debt trying to impress people you really don’t like.  Don’t run up debt, period.  Live within your means.  Get rid of clutter.  Your material blessings are from God, and we are called to be faithful stewards of those blessings.

People in your life are also blessings.  (One of my friends says that “People are either blessin’s or lessons,” so even the lessons can come with blessings.)  Treat your spouse, children, friends and parents with care.  Look out for them.  Respect them.  Guard their hearts above all else.  As those of us reading this can attest, there will be more than enough people in their worlds who’ll break their hearts.

Realize the truth of God’s word.  There are no short cuts.  There are no easy answers.  The Bible says that God wants us to have abundant life.  God has great plans for our life.  God loves us.  Nowhere does it says that following Jesus guarantees health.  Sin is in the world.  Bad stuff happens.  People get sick and die too soon.  This includes Bible-readin’, Jesus-followin’ prayer warriors.  The word of God also doesn’t promise wealth.  In fact, Jesus tells the rich man to sell everything he has and give it to the poor before following him.  Jesus says it’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God.  Nor are we promised prosperity.  The man who built a bigger barn to store his excess grain died that night.  Those of us who faithfully follow Jesus choose to follow an itinerant, radical rabbi whose ways and teachings upset people so much they killed him.  Short summary:  The health, wealth and prosperity gospel is a HERESY!  (Can we do the St. Nicholas punch on those who preach that?)

Ask for help when you need it.  Often in Paul’s letters, we see allusions to racing, and often researchers and interpreters envision those as marathons, for the race for the crown truly is a long race requiring stamina.  I see the Christian life as a relay race, though, because we need people to help us win that race.  The writer of Hebrews says to encourage each other daily, as long as it’s TODAY.  Don’t worry about who you’ll encourage tomorrow; encourage those around you today.  One of my favorite lines from hymnody is “Pray that I may have the grace to let you be my servant, too” (“The Servant Song”).  When we don’t ask for help, then we deny others the opportunity to live out their faith in serving us.  There’s a reason we’re in communityKoinonia – together.

What would you add?  What helps you live a more full life?  (Comments and suggestions from those of all faiths – or no faith – are welcome.  I just ask that you keep them respectful.)

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