Inspiration–God-Style

Over twelve years ago now, I met a special lady  online at a homeschool website. Her name was Betty. At first, I had cautious conversations with her and the other ladies on the website. I had just begun homeschooling, and they all sounded so accomplished. I wasn’t sure I would ever do as well as they seemed to have done. She and the other ladies must have talked me down a dozen times during my first year. They were always there on my screen with a word of encouragement. It might seem funny to you, considering someone a friend who could only be seen on a computer screen, but we were all doing something that was considered out of the norm. 

As the years passed, I noticed something different about Betty. She always pointed to Jesus in whatever conversation she was having. And, she took it further than being just a name on a screen. When my mother-in-law passed away suddenly in 2009, she took the lead in having cards and flowers sent, and she called me. I don’t remember how long we talked that day, but our conversation showed her heart, and it left me strength (God’s strength, I know now.) to keep going through the first days of my grief.  Betty was doing all of this while helping her husband fight cancer. She showed up for me then, and I will always be grateful. 

Sadly, the end of the following year saw her husband go to be with Jesus. She showed such amazing strength encouraging all of us–her online friends and her friends in real life. That time though turned out to be a time of tumult for both of us. For me, it was my husband’s surgery and subsequent loss of his job while I was still homeschooling. For her, it was the church not showing up when she was widowed. It still hurts me when I consider those words. How could someone not show up for such an amazing and gentle Christian? But, that is not really for me to consider as it is part of her story and not mine. 

While she was still going through her tumult the following year, she showed up for me again. We had gone out west so my husband could look for work, and we needed a place of respite for a few days. She provided her home, and she wasn’t even there. She had her son let us in, and those few days of rest encouraged all of us.  They took us to the following week when my husband received a job offer on our son’s twelfth birthday to go to Alabama. So, we drove back east to a new city and a new state to begin a new life. 

In the seven years since, a lot has happened to the both of us. I have finished homeschooling both of my sons through high school with one of them almost being done with college. Her children are all grown now as well. There have been job losses and hospital stays for my husband. She had one as well and had to learn to walk again. She also married again to a wonderful man. They’ve lived in two different states. 

Those are the facts, but what I want to talk about now is how she has inspired me. Like I said earlier, she points to Jesus with everything she does. Jesus, not a church.  She’s done what God has told her to do even when people in churches have told her it was impossible. She’s started a ministry to those in the adult entertainment industry, the “least of these” talked about in Scripture. She and her teammates go into the clubs to show the people there the love of Jesus, period. The name of the ministry is Xpose Hope. (https://xposehope.com/), and I would love it if you would explore the website and donate if God so leads you. I’ve also set up a Facebook fundraiser that lasts until the end of this week (https://www.facebook.com/donate/323209931601991/) if you want to go that route. She is reaching people, and she is loving people. People who would not go into a church building otherwise. And with all that, she inspires me. 

Now, I think I know Betty well enough to know she would be humbled by what I’ve written and would still point to Jesus regardless. But, I think you need to know why she specifically inspires me. As I’ve tried to figure out the question of ‘What comes next?’, I’ve felt God calling me to write. So, I’ve written. I’ve written stories, essays, and blog posts. I’m working on a book. It’s not as directly involved with people as Betty’s ministry is, but I’ve worked on getting better at what God has called me to do. My writing hasn’t received a lot of attention yet. I don’t think it’s been well understood. People still look at me oddly when I mention what I’m doing with my post homeschooling life, and it’s a lonely feeling. I’m going against the grain in many ways especially at church. But, I know Betty understands it, and that is why she inspires me. She has encouraged me with my writing, and she has encouraged me with other things I’ve felt called to do. She’s even encouraged me to do things with my callings pointing to Jesus and not to wait until a church says it’s okay. 

All of these things about her life have pointed me to Jesus and have inspired me at the same time. It brought me to an understanding yesterday morning too. Not everyone will understand what God has called me to do. Why should they? It’s my calling not theirs. So, I asked God for peace and not to feel lonely as I continue to consider the question of ‘What comes next?’, and I thanked God for the people He’s put in my life like Betty. 

Praying that God will give us all an idea of His calling and people to encourage us like Betty encourages me. 

God’s blessings on you all today! 

What Prevents Us from Turning Cynical?–Questions to Consider–Part 5

I didn’t think I would be asking this question the week after Thanksgiving, but several things brought it to mind, and I thought I would address them in today’s post. I do need to make it clear though that I did have a good Thanksgiving. This is just a culmination of something that happened over the holiday and questions I’ve been considering over the last few weeks.

What does prevent us from turning cynical? Is it violence on Thanksgiving Day? Yes, my city had a mall shooting that evening. People were hurt and killed, and many people’s lives were disrupted including people close to my son. I keep thinking of a line at another store which prevented another person from walking back into that mall when the shootings were happening. That was a “praise God” moment for us, but I think of the people’s lives that were disrupted. Of people who are no longer here. Of people who were injured or scared. And it brings me back to God. Why did He let this happen? There are no answers, of course, and I am tempted to let my heart turn hard and cynical. Of course, I could be honest and say let my heart turn harder and more cynical.

What about people who are told they’re not wanted in churches? I couldn’t imagine this happening, but it has happened to a friend of mine who runs a ministry to the “least of these” in another city. She was told flat-out that the people she was bringing to church were not welcome. It hurt my heart so much to hear this. I asked, ‘Why God?’ Aren’t we supposed to welcome all people to church and share about Jesus’ love? And my heart turned harder and more cynical.

Finally, what about the people who are closest to you? I tried a few weeks ago to protect one of them from overworking himself in the church. He’s on a sabbatical now, but I’m wondering if that was the right thing to do. God is convicting my heart we should all be willing to serve Him, and I do agree with that.  But, at what cost? Health? Family? Marriage? All of it? I don’t know the answer. I wish I did. Should we still love the people who refuse to serve because they’re afraid they’ll be overworked? My heart says yes to that question, but then it turns harder and more cynical towards those who won’t help and who won’t give leaving the work to the 5-10% of the membership who will. I count myself, to my shame, in that first group right now. Between the times I’ve failed, the times where my help wasn’t needed, and the times where I’ve just felt overlooked, I’ve become confused about what my role in the church is supposed to be.

Of course, none of the situations I’ve mentioned can prevent you from turning cynical. In fact, I’ve become more cynical with each one. But, I was recently looking at the You Version plans, and I saw one entitled Beating Cynicism. It intrigued me which is why I started it on Saturday. And I learned that my heart had hardened. Hardened to almost where it could be shattered. My attempts to protect because of fear were not what God wanted for me. He wants me to serve with hope. He wants the people I love the most to serve with hope. I thought I had moved past the situations that had hurt me so badly, but I just pushed them into a box never to be dealt with again.

Isn’t that what we do in the church? We don’t talk about the hurts and pretend that everything is okay. Sometimes we move on to other relationships or other churches. I don’t think God wants that for us either. But, what does He want? What does He want us to have the courage to do?

I believe it starts with one of the prayers included with the devotions. “Dear God, I admit it. I have stopped hoping, stopped believing, and stopped trusting. But, you haven’t. And because you haven’t, I don’t want to stay the way I am. Give me the courage to hope again, trust again, and believe again. Amen.” Because, I do want my heart to be soft again. I want to be able to say I can trust people as well as trusting my Lord and Savior. I’m not saying we shouldn’t trust our Lord and Savior. I’m saying I don’t want to go into a situation always thinking that the other person is going to let me down.

So, can I ask a favor of those of you who are believers? Can we offer each other encouragement instead of judgment? Can we let each other cry when we are in pain? Can we try to understand instead of condemn? Can we be the community Jesus wants us to be instead of pretending? I promise I will try, and I hope you do too.

God bless you all!

 

Thanksgiving

I’m taking a break from my “questions to consider” series to consider this uniquely American holiday that is coming up in just a few days. To be fair, God wants us to be thankful all of the time, but we tend, at this time of year, to put a little more thought into it.

So, what does God say about being thankful? Scripture has numerous examples of which I will share only a few. Psalm 100:4 says, “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.”

I also like Philippians 4:6-7 though it is so hard to do. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

Finally, there are two verses, one in the Old Testament and one in the New Testament, similar to one another that I think express God’s thoughts about thankfulness. From I Thessalonians 5:18, “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Then, from I Chronicles 16:34, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.”

God wants us to be thankful, but we often forget. We often forget to even look for His presence which I am most definitely guilty of. Last night though, I made a deliberate choice which brought me a tremendous blessing. Let me set the stage. There was a community Thanksgiving service I really wanted to go to. Illness and lack of desire made sure I would have no companions from my household. Now, this is a thing for me. I hate walking into somewhere by myself where the expectation is that others will be with me so I almost didn’t go. But, then I said to myself that maybe this was my chance to encounter God, on my own. So, that’s what I did. I went, sat by myself, and had an amazing time of worship on the back row. God spoke to me through the music and through the words, and I was able to focus on Him alone. He gave me insights and a deep sense of peace and thanksgiving. It was what I needed.

I’m very thankful for a God who is always present in our lives!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Why are We Afraid to Ask for Help?–Questions to Consider–Part 4

I’m four weeks into this series and finally getting the groove of how I want to ask my questions and consider the possible answers to them. I’ve written about questions that required Scripture reading for possible answers, and I’ve written about questions that showed how Christianity related to the larger world around us. Today, I’m going to ask a question about how we relate to the Christian community around us, that is, our faith family. Now, some of us might not have a faith family, but I think the question still applies. Here it is. Why are we afraid to ask for help?

First, I believe there are many nuances to this question. Are we asking for money or something else? Do we have a faith family? Do we have people we trust in our faith family? Do we have people we trust at all? Are we stubborn or prideful enough that we even struggle to answer the question? Do we subscribe to an individualist philosophy? Do we judge others for needing help which makes us afraid of being judged? Do we believe no one will help us? I could go on and on with the questions, but I think I’ve made my point.

The other day I was watching a TV show I’ve recently become of a fan of–The Man in the High Castle. If you’re not familiar with it, here is the premise. The United States did not win World War 2–the Germans and the Japanese did. They’ve taken over the eastern and western parts of the US, respectfully, with a neutral zone in-between. Anyway, the show takes place in the 1960’s, and there are people who have embraced the conquerors and people who are resisting. I’ve learned about literary elements, the shades of grey between black and white, and how history has been affected by all of it.  It was the first example I thought of when I thought of this topic.

The son of a family who had embraced Nazi culture developed a neuromuscular disease for which there was no cure. People like this were called bottom feeders on the show. They couldn’t contribute and weren’t worth keeping alive so they were encouraged to kill themselves. When the parents found out about this, they couldn’t ask for help because they were afraid. Their son would die, and of course, they didn’t want to lose their son. The story line continued over a few episodes, and eventually the son found out. He ended up turning himself in, and he was killed. The saddest part was that there was a “memorial” service where he was celebrated because he was killed. In that society, there was no way they could ask for help because of their fear, a fear that was well-founded.

But, isn’t that true today in real life? We’re afraid of what giving help will cost us in time and money so we don’t want to ask for it ourselves because we will be on the other end of that dichotomy. It’s shown when we’re afraid of immigrants who want the security we have. It’s shown when we’re afraid of the homeless person. It’s shown when we’re afraid of the widow or the orphan. it’s shown when we’re afraid of the unemployed person. I want to ask this though. Did God call us to be afraid? Nope. I John 4:18 says this, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”

Another reason someone might not ask for help is because of their stubbornness or pride in thinking they can do it by themselves. In Western society especially, we have this idea we’re not supposed to ask for help, and we’re supposed to do everything on our own. I’ve seen it shown in advertisements from missions organizations which say recipients of help have some “skin in the game”, so to speak. I’ve seen it shown when someone who received help for a foster child (from friends who wanted to help) felt the need to apologize and to say they really could handle it by themselves. There are more examples which remind me of Proverbs 16:18. “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”

So, we’re not supposed to have fear, and we’re not supposed to have pride. (I would classify this as unhealthy pride.) What then do we need to do to become more willing to ask for help? This, I believe, is where having a faith family comes in. And not just any faith family. I could tell you many stories about people who have been betrayed by their faith families because they could not handle the bad times. We all need faith families we can trust who will be there for the good times and the bad times to be the community God has called us all to be.

I wish I could say I had been perfect at this. In fact, the reason I’m writing about this topic is because last week was a rough one. It was the culmination of my loss of courage over the past few weeks. I had to be courageous enough to tell my true feelings and say what was on my heart. I had to reach out and ask for help. It was hard. So hard. I didn’t think I was worthy of it. But God gave me the courage, and I did. The rewards were more than I could have asked for. The best result was how God’s peace and certainty poured into my heart. And I’ve learned a lesson too. We are all worthy of help no matter what anyone at a church may tell us. We’re God’s children, and we’re not alone. He is always there for us, and if He is always there, shouldn’t we always be there for each other?

God bless you all!

What is Sin Nature? – Questions to Consider – Part 3

As I’ve mentioned before, topics come to me in a multitude of ways. I can read them in a book, hear them in a conversation, see them in the outdoors or in a store, or the words just appear in my head. Today’s topic for my “questions to consider” series came down two of those paths. The first one was from my writing inspiration book. The prompt was “So many people are selfish, greedy, and unfriendly…” I’ve already lived enough life to know this is a true statement. And it can be discouraging when I do my best to be kind, and it’s not reciprocated. The other path was two words appearing in my head–sin nature. I’d already been thinking of the depravity in today’s world with the shootings in Pennsylvania and with all of the divisive and rhetoric that is so prevalent especially with tomorrow’s elections in the United States. It makes me wonder how God puts up with us. It also brought me to today’s question–what is sin nature and why does it still exist in this world? I guess that’s two questions. 🙂 But, I think we’ve all wondered why bad things happen in this world and where God was in the midst of them. I’m going to attempt to answer this today, but I’ll go ahead and warn you I don’t have all the answers. I don’t think anyone does except God.

First, I think a simple definition is in order. From gotquestions.org, “The sin nature is that aspect in man that makes him rebellious against God. When we speak of the sin nature, we refer to the fact that we have a natural inclination to sin; given the choice to do God’s will or our own, we will naturally choose to do our own thing.” To translate this into language we can all understand, we are all born bad. It can’t be seen in the youngest of us, but it can definitely be seen in toddlers who we take a lot of time teaching to share and to tell the truth. It can be seen much more as we get older.

We can’t overcome this by ourselves which is why it says this in Deuteronomy 6:4-9. “Hear, O Israel. The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.” God knew we would need to hear His teaching continually for it to take hold in our lives.

Writers in the New Testament also talked about sin and sin nature. From Romans 5:12, “Sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned.” I John 1:8 is a clear example to us. “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” There are many more examples, too many for this post, but I think the point is clear. Sin is present in each of us.

Only one person hasn’t had a sin nature. Jesus Christ. He lived a perfect life, died on the cross, and was brought back to life. What He did is the reason we can be born again. We inherit a new nature as it says in 2 Corinthians 5:17. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here.” To consider this has happened as a result of my faith gives me great joy.

But, we also need to know that our sin nature doesn’t disappear when we receive Christ as our Savior. Bad things still happen in our world, and Christians can still do bad things because of sin. Knowing this in our hearts can help with the questions of illness, abuse, greed, broken marriages, fighting, and any other sin that is out there.

We have help though. Help from God. He sends His Holy Spirit to take up residence in each believer and supplies the power we need to overcome the pull of our sin nature. I’m reminded of what it says in I Corinthians 10:13. “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so you can endure it.” He will help us with sin if we only ask Him.

Now, I know what some of you might be thinking–Christians and non-Christians alike. You’ve seen all these people claiming to be Christians doing bad things. You’ve seen people who aren’t Christians acting better than some Christians. What’s the difference? Why should you even consider this faith? While I wouldn’t presume to know someone’s standing with God (That’s between them and God.), I would look at their deeds–what they do. These deeds are not a requirement to become a Christian–only accepting Jesus and His love can do that, but you’re supposed to see them afterwards. There are many examples in Scripture, but I think the one in the book of Matthew is the best. Matthew 5:16 says, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Genuine relationship with God should make us want to glorify Him and not ourselves.

No one will be perfect in this though. The Bible says that we will struggle with our old nature as long as we are in this world. But, those who are in genuine relationship with God will come to Him in repentance for what they have done wrong each and every time. For those innocents who have been touched by the evil of this world, God heals. I know He does. It will be in His time though, not ours. That is our challenge–to trust our Lord and Savior through pain, suffering, and what we cannot see while showing His love for those who most need it.

God bless you all!

 

Questions to Consider – Part 2

It’s time for a second installment of “questions to consider.” Hopefully, you were able to read my first post, and it made you think. That is the point of this series–to make you think about what you believe and put those thoughts into action. It’s not about having the right or wrong answer. I freely admit I don’t know everything. I want this to be an opportunity to grow for everyone who reads these posts whether they consider themselves Christians or not.

With that being said, here is what brought me to the next question. I’ve said before that I first accepted Christ as Savior at the age of thirteen. I was pretty much a regular church-goer from then until I left the church in 2005 for reasons that were painful, but necessary. My husband and I considered ourselves Christians, but we thought we could make it on our own away from people who could possibly hurt us. God taught us, me especially, a lot during those years. Anyway, the following year we were faced with the question of whether to homeschool our kids. Our older son was academically advanced and having to wait for the rest of his class to catch up during the school day while the younger one was being bullied for his size in his first grade classroom. Both situations were not what we wanted for our kids so we pulled them out of public school. That year, and the first years we homeschooled, I faced questions about my faith and the political process in the United States. This leads to today’s question. Do we have to belong to a certain political party in order to be a Christian?

A thorny question, to be sure.  🙂 I know some people who would say yes, and I know others who would say no. Back in the early years of my homeschooling career, I would have said yes. Though I did not begin homeschooling for religious reasons, I still considered myself a Christian, and there were many people on Internet homeschooling message boards who were homeschooling for religious reasons. I got to know some of them, and they were great ladies. I started considering them friends.

But, 2006-2008 was also a period of tumult in my country. A historic political campaign was waged to elect Barack Obama, the first African-American president of the United States. There were many things he stood for I did not agree with, and when I said I did not agree, people called me racist. I did not want to be called racist so I decided to keep my mouth shut. But, that didn’t stop me from having the thoughts of disagreement. I was also hearing people  say that homeschooling would be curtailed if he was elected so I became afraid. My thoughts of fear turned into judgment. Judgment of anyone who did not think like me or act like me. I was really good at it. I was afraid of being judged so I turned into someone who judged others. It wasn’t where God wanted me to be.

From 2009-2010, God started us on the journey back to where He wanted me to be. First, my mother-in-law became ill, and we moved back to where she was to help take care of her. A right and noble thing to do, I was told. We thought so too. She ended up dying two months later. We were devastated. Many people told us how sorry they were, but there weren’t many people in my life who would let me be real with my grief. In fact, I had to hide mine a lot so I could take care of my husband and kids.

Two months later, we moved back to the city we had lived in at the beginning of our marriage for my husband to take a job. He started working, and I was at home with our boys who I was still homeschooling.. I got to know people, but those judgmental thoughts were still under the surface. I thought I had everything right because I was a Christian, and I should oppose anything that wasn’t a “Christian” belief. I didn’t even consider people on the “other side,” and I definitely didn’t think Jesus loved them either. I was able to keep my walls up and not show the bad things that happened to me so everyone should do that. Right? It was a person’s fault if they were poor or got sick. Right?

God didn’t think so, and He started showing  me in the fall of 2010 and hasn’t stopped. My husband got sick and had to have surgery. He had been sick before with his chronic condition and had even had surgery before, but this was the first time since both of his parents had passed away. I felt alone. My writing notebook was my only companion. He had the surgery and slowly recovered, but in the middle of that, he lost his job. We had no income. We burned through our savings quickly and then had to ask for help. It was humiliating. It was also surprising how quickly people turned on us. My husband  didn’t have a job so he must have done something wrong. Right? We were so sure we had been called to this path, and now, this happened. Don’t get me wrong. There were some people who did help us and who prayed for us. I will always be grateful. Finally though, we had to head west in the summer of 2011. Family said we could stay with them while my husband looked for work. The judgmental thoughts towards other people disappeared while we were going through this. Why wouldn’t they? We were being judged every day, and it wasn’t pleasant at all. It wasn’t my husband’s fault he had lost his job, but people were acting like it was.

Fortunately, we were only there for four weeks. Then, we drove back across the country for my husband to accept another job. It was good to have the chance to start over again. It wasn’t the end of bad times, of course. Within a few weeks, I lost my third child which sent me into a major depression. I felt dead and cold during that first winter. People were arguing about who was fit to run the country in the upcoming presidential election. Republicans and Democrats were slinging insults at each other. ‘Old, rich, and white’ was one insult. ‘Lazy and unwilling to work’ was another. I knew they all couldn’t be true. My husband had not been lazy and had wanted to work. There weren’t any jobs available. I wanted to know what had happened to my country and I especially wanted to know where God was.

The following summer my life changed, and I found God again in a church that didn’t judge. I was suspicious at first. It took me several months to let down my guard and let people see the real me. There were several things about this church that were different. It was multi-racial and had people with different opinions. I heard  more about grace than I had ever heard in my faith life. I started to get a sense of what living in community was supposed to mean. Flawed and messy, but still filled with love. It was a good thing for me to see.

In the five years since, I wish I could say I had gotten the hang of how this was supposed to work and was doing it perfectly. No, that hasn’t happened. 🙂 I’ve been afraid of being judged when my husband has been sick or out-of-work. I’ve felt inadequate because there are people who have more money than I do. I’ve felt disappointed because something I’ve felt called to was thwarted. I’ve felt like I didn’t fit in and still don’t feel like I fit in at times. And my country, it has gotten worse. People fight about everything and have drawn lines in the sand. We, as Christians, have forgotten that God wants us to be united in our differences to show Jesus’ love and not to draw lines in the sand. I have felt discouraged about the normalization of bullying behavior and name calling. Both sides have done it. No one can claim innocence.

But, here is the most important thing I’ve learned in the last five years. My God is bigger than my country. He is the one I hold onto during the bad times and the One I rejoice with during the good times. He is much more than any political party, and the reason I have to say that we don’t need to belong to a certain political party in order to be a Christian. Your mileage may vary, and that’s okay. But, for me to be a Christian and have a heart like God wants me to have, I cannot take the label of a political party. It interferes with the work God wants me to do.

May God bless you all today!

 

Standing in the Gap

There is a book in the Old Testament that I want to focus on today. The concept, shown us most clearly in this book, shows us how Jesus redeemed us and also shows us how we, as brothers and sisters, can be there for each other. What book of the Bible does all this? The book of Ruth. I’m sure we’re all familiar with the story. Naomi is with her family living in Moab because Israel is experiencing a famine. Her husband and eventually her sons both die leaving her with two daughters-in-law. One daughter-in-law goes back to her own family while the other, Ruth, goes back to Israel with Naomi.

When they return to Israel, they are two women, alone and without a male protector. This is where the concept of guardian redeemer or kinsman redeemer comes into play. Gotquestions.org defines kinsman redeemer as this. “The kinsman redeemer is a male relative who, according to various laws of the Pentateuch, had the privilege or responsibility to act on behalf of a relative who was in trouble, danger, or need.” The story becomes poignant here as Boaz who is a wealthy relative of Naomi’s meets Ruth and accepts their appeal as kinsman redeemer, marrying Ruth and having a son with her who becomes the forefather of King David.

Christ is also regarded as an example of a kinsman redeemer because He is the only one who can satisfy our need for a Savior. He bought us with His blood on the cross and His resurrection. He made the church His bride and is the true kinsman redeemer for all who profess faith in Him.

Jesus is our kinsman redeemer first or should be our kinsman redeemer first before our marriages or our families. He is the One who stands in the gap for us as we seek to live for Him in this fallen world. I want to take standing in the gap one step further as we consider this concept. Many of us today live alone longer than anyone did in the Old or New Testaments. We wait longer to get married, and we experience divorce and widowhood at a higher percentage. Not everyone in the church is married, and I think we , in the church, need to remember that. We need to stand in the gap for our brothers and sisters as we pray for each other, and we need to be willing to help each other too even if we are not all the same.

My heart aches for the people who walk into church alone. Even though I am married, I remember well all the times I have been in church alone, and it’s not a pleasant feeling. Everything in the church generally falls to the default setting which is married with children. I believe that’s wrong. Everyone, whether they are married or single, should have a chance to fulfill God’s calling on their lives in the church. I am comforted by the fact though that what God calls us to do doesn’t necessarily have to be done in the church.

But, I digress. We need to stand in the gap for those who have a different life status than us. We need to offer babysitting to the single mom who would like to go on the women’s retreat. We need to take our divorced friend out for coffee when there’s a speaker on marriage at church. We need to mow the lawn for a widow or take a widower’s daughter out bra shopping. We need to befriend people of the opposite sex and not be afraid of what people at church might say. Didn’t Jesus spend time with people who were different from Him?

As I end this post, I am reminded of what Christ did for us as kinsman redeemer which was first shown in Old Testament times. I am also reminded of how God wants us to stand in the gap for each other as we face the trials and tribulations of this world. May we all remember to pray for each other today!

Remembering God

Earlier this year, I blogged through the devotional 100 Days to Brave by Annie F. Downs. Remember? I took each devotion and wrote about how it impacted me–hot mess and all. In the process, I learned about bravery and how being brave has impacted my life even when I haven’t felt brave. I also figured out that being brave didn’t necessarily look like what I thought it looked like. During this time, Ms. Downs became a favorite author. God used her words to touch my life. Why am I bringing this up now? She has a new book coming out tomorrow entitled Remember God which I’m looking forward to reading and reviewing. I know God will use her words to impact my life just as He used her words from her previous book. In the meantime, I wanted to share what remembering God looked like for me.

When I typed “remembering God” and “remember God” into the You Version search engine, it came back with many results like I expected. Scripture does a good job of showing where God calls us to remember Him and where humans call on God to remember them. It’s like a lot of things in life. Sometimes, we forget about God’s goodness and need to be reminded. God doesn’t forget though, and I think that might be why we are called on so often in Scripture to remember Him. Here are some examples. From Psalm 78:35, “They remembered that God was their Rock, that God Most High was their Redeemer.” God spoke of remembering Israel in Leviticus 26:42. “I will remember my covenant with Jacob and my covenant with Isaac and my covenant with Abraham, and I will remember the land.” The thief on the cross asked Jesus to remember him. Luke 23:42 says, “Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.'”

There are also many instances in Scripture where people asked God to remember them or thanked God for remembering other believers. Nehemiah 5:19 says, “Remember me with favor, my God, for all I have done for these people.” Also, in Thessalonians 1:3, “We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” I especially like Ephesians 1:15-16 because I’ve personally used these verses to tell people I’m thankful for them. “For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.”

With all the references to remembering in Scripture, why do we forget God and all He has done for us? I’m not sure, but I think one of the reasons might be because of the fall. Satan doesn’t want us to remember what God has done for us because his job at getting us to believe his lies would be more difficult, and he wants things to be as easy as possible. Doesn’t evil usually work that way?

I also think we let the busyness of our days crowd God out. God is waiting for us to remember, to want to talk to Him, to have a relationship with Him, and sometimes, we just forget He is there.

Finally, we have mistaken impressions of how we need to be when we approach God. Everything needs to be perfect, and we think we need to display the Christian joy everyone keeps talking about. No sadness, and no pain allowed. But, God wants us to come to Him as we are. He wants us to remember Him as we are so He can work in our lives and in our hearts. Then, we can share about His love with a world who desperately needs it.

As I end this post, I want to remind all of us how important it is to remember God and how He is a part of our stories. And, we don’t need to just remember Him. We need to share our stories and how God is important in each of them. Your story might not seem important in the grand scheme of things, but it is just as necessary to God and His Kingdom as those stories that have a larger reach. Thankful for the chance to share my stories in this space!

Praying God’s blessings on you all today!

Forgiveness

For the last few weeks, the sermons at my church have been focused on each line of the Lord’s Prayer. We have been going through 40 Days of Prayer, and several members have been offered opportunities to write devotions, me included. I wrote my devotion on the line “Give us this day our daily bread,” which was our emphasis last week. I’m starting to think though after yesterday’s sermon, it would probably have been better if I had been able to write mine about forgiveness. Then, I remembered. I have a platform of my own so I decided to write about forgiveness today.

First, for clarity, I want to start off with the definition of forgiveness. Dictionary.com defines it as “act of forgiving; state of being forgiven.” This isn’t too clear about what forgiveness actually is so I decided to define the word “forgive”. Also, from Dictionary.com. Forgive means “to grant pardon for or remission of (an offense, debt, etc.); absolve; to give up all claim or account of; remit (a debt, obligation, etc.); or to grant pardon to (a person).”

I quoted all of the definitions so it would be clear what Jesus wants us to do in the Lord’s Prayer. Here are the verses from Matthew 6 that specifically talk about this. Verses 12-15 say, “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

So, there it is in black and white. God expects us to forgive others like He forgives us. It should be easy then, right? God said it, and we do it. No questions asked. No, that isn’t quite the case. At least, it’s not for me, and I’m guessing some of you find it hard too. I find it hard to forgive others because the things they do to hurt me are usually silly things. Things that would be considered childish in the adult world. So, I stuff them deep down inside. I’ve been told all my life that any hurts I have are not worth acknowledging or forgiving. In other words, making myself vulnerable was something to be avoided at all costs.

I find it’s the same way on the other end of the scale. Because I find it hard to be vulnerable in front of others, it’s hard for me to ask for forgiveness from others. Now, I’m not talking about everyday things like bumping into someone. I can ask forgiveness for those things easily. No, it’s the relationship damaging conflicts where I’m unable to stand up for what I believe in. There have been some people in my life who have given me heck for what I believe in, and we’ve said hurtful things to one another. (One of the reasons I never took debate in school.) Because I have such a hard time managing conflict, I have let the relationship dissolve. It hurts, but I haven’t been able to figure out a way where I can agree to disagree with someone and maintain the relationship. (Remember, I have been told all my life that my words didn’t and don’t matter.)

The nearest I’ve been able to come to asking for or receiving forgiveness is by writing it down, handing it to the person involved, and walking away. I know it’s the coward’s way out, but, in a small way, it’s a victory for me because I’ve been able to do what God asks for in this prayer. Does it change the relationship? Sometimes yes and sometimes no. Everything I’ve heard about forgiveness say that it’s supposed to change you more than the other person. And it has changed me for good sometimes and for bad at others because I tend to withdraw. I tell myself that no one could possibly want to spend time with me because I’m such a terrible person. Like I said last week, “I know I’m hard to get along with. I know I’m prickly, and I find it hard to talk to people.” I’ve dropped out of groups because I haven’t wanted to face people. I’ve guess I’ve internalized every non-lesson I was ever taught about conflict.

Hopefully, in my words, you have found something to help you with your own forgiveness journey. Forgiveness is hard, and it’s even harder to ask for in person. When you’ve been told all your life that your feelings don’t matter and that vulnerability is a no-no, you’re not inclined to even try. I know I matter to Jesus, and you do too. He is the one who gives us the power to forgive. I just wish I knew I mattered to other people so asking in person for forgiveness wouldn’t be so hard. God’s blessings on you all today!

 

 

Getting Along with People

I tend to leaf through the pages of my writing prompt book after I’ve read a particular day’s entry. I use my wandering to get ideas  for the day’s writing, blog topics, or even things God might be leading me to as I live in the now and not yet of God’s Kingdom. I found one today that pierced my heart, and knew I had to write about it. Here’s the prompt. “I just can’t seem to get along with anyone…”

I’ve felt like this a lot recently, and the words written with the prompt say this is a common thing for writers. I was somewhat reassured by that, but even though it’s a common thing, I still have the longing for deep relationships. It’s a longing God gives all of us. It seems though that some of us are better at it than others with me being at the not so good end. I decided to write about this and what we can all do to help today because there have to be more people who experience this problem than just me.

First, have we listened, truly listened, to a person who is trying to talk to us? I have had many conversations in my life with people who are looking at everyone else, but me during the conversation. It’s made me wonder if I’m really that bad to talk with.  I’ve also had people who can’t wait to get their own words out when we’re talking. It’s made me wonder if my own words even matter. It’s also made me more likely to write my words down than to say them because the written word helps me remember how I felt about something and helps me to be honest. I found a meme yesterday with this quote that I wanted to share. “Listen and Silent are spelled with the same letters.” It makes one think, doesn’t it? 🙂

Then, there’s walking up to a conversation that stops while I’m there and almost immediately starts back up when I leave. It’s made me wonder if I’m the one being talked or gossiped about. This is especially true if I know the people involved are part of a clique who I’m not well-acquainted with.

Funny story with the statement in the last paragraph. The other day I saw a cartoon with someone in the bed about to mentally go over every conversation they had that day and wonder about all the things they should have said. Because, I do that. Every single night. I give myself mental pats on the back if something went well, and I castigate myself if it didn’t. I shared the cartoon on my Facebook page, and others told me they did the same thing. It was a small comfort.

Finally, there’s walking into a room full of people and wondering how I’m going to fit in. It is something that terrifies me enough that I’ve almost quit doing it. I’ll get somewhere early so I can be the first one there. I’ll decide not to go somewhere at all to avoid it. Or I’ll just stand on the outside looking in. It’s not a place where I want to be. It’s just the place where I am right now.

I write all this because not only has it been done to me; I’ve done it to others. We all have. Listen, I know I’m hard to get along with. I know I’m prickly, and I find it hard to talk to people. It’s why today’s prompt spoke to me. We have all found multiple ways to sin–towards God and each other. I get tired of hearing all the ways this world has turned on itself and ask Jesus if He could go ahead and come now. I don’t want to deal with all the rotten stuff and feeling like I’m alone, unwanted, unneeded, and unloved because I do. (By other people. I know my Lord and Savior loves me.) I’ve spoken before of how my husband has more of an impact with his life than I do. He is wanted and needed at our church whereas I’m not. But, I digress. We can’t get along with others under our own power. We just can’t. Jesus needs to be in our hearts, and we need to give each other grace. It’s as simple as that.

Praying God’s blessings on you all today!