‘Day One’ Blog

Free From Everything

Through this man (Jesus)
forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you,
and by Him everyone who believes
is freed from everything from which
you could not be freed by the law of Moses.
Acts 13:38-39

I’m struck this morning by what must have been an inconceivable proclamation to the Jews in those initial years following Jesus death and resurrection. How much of the life of a Jew was constructed around making certain one kept the laws of Moses? How much time and energy was expended to keep oneself “clean” or to make amends for transgressions of the law? Wasn’t the bulk of life about maintaining right standing with God?

I’m trying to imagine then, how significantly disorienting this message Paul was preaching would have been. Jesus was now offering the forgiveness of sins through belief in Him. The entire construct of the life of a Jew, since Moses introduced them to the law at Mount Sinai, was changed in an instant (for those who believed). The words that leap off the page for me this morning are freed from everything. I’m trying to envision being there in the synagogue and hearing Paul’s oration. I would understand the words all right, but I would be at a total loss to know what a life freed from the law might look like. I would have exactly zero frame of reference for living in light of that.

What would one do with his or her time, talents and energies, now that they no longer needed to be spent securing and maintaining right relationship with God? For the first time in the history of the nation of Israel, those who ‘believed’ could look beyond themselves. In other words, the painstaking attention payed to one’s standing in the eyes of God, would give way to a new pre-occupation, namely, joining those who were proclaiming this exceedingly good news. Easier said than done! My compassion for those who lived in those very early years deepens as I struggle to live in the freedom I have been given.

I am led to stop and ask God the Spirit (who lives in me) if there aren’t aspects of my life where I’m living as a bound person rather than the free person I am in Christ. Because bound people are impeded people. Bound people are inward focused people. Bound people tend to their bondage like a wounded person tends their wounds. In Christ I am freed from EVERYTHING, but know full well I can and often do live as if I’m not. I don’t think I’m alone! What a coup for the adversary, that the Church would be full of bound-up, free people.

We were buried therefore with Him
by baptism into death,
in order that,
just as Christ was raised from the dead
by the glory of the Father,
we too might walk in newness of life.
Romans 6:4

For freedom Christ has set us free;
stand firm therefore,
and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
Galatians 5:1

Father, the Kingdom stakes are too high for me not be on the field of battle. Those influenced by our culture and the world’s system of belief will NEVER find freedom there. I know it. How tragic that I, a freed person, would continue to live bound. Help me to walk in the freedom you paid so dearly to give me. Then give me Your eyes to see those about me who need Your good news.

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Stones of Remembrance


And Aaron shall bear their names

before the LORD
on his shoulders
for remembrance.
Exodus 28:12

Two onyx stones, enclosed in settings of gold filigree, each having 6 names of the sons of Israel engraved on them, in order of their birth. Aaron was to bear these before the LORD on his shoulders… for remembrance. I was asking the LORD who this was for. He wanted their names facing upward, toward Him. And why? Who needed to remember? He doesn’t forget His sons and daughters.

As I’ve been happily plodding through these chapters in Exodus, transcribing for myself all the detail of the constructing of the tabernacle and now the priestly garments, I’m amazed over and over again by the specificity of the instructions God gave to Moses. But this particular detail, these stones of remembrance… my heart is struck by the tenderness of God toward the sons of Israel.

Aaron bore their names before the LORD. This was God’s idea; His instruction. How highly personal. As Aaron would move about within the tabernacle, performing his priestly duties, those names would be in “view of God.” The LORD would “see” them… always.

The names were on Aaron’s shoulders, facing upward. He was literally bearing them on his shoulders. Visions of a shepherd carrying a lamb come to mind. Or the command to bear one another’s burdens… the part we play in each other’s lives so that we are not solely burdened with the full weight of our cares.

And finally, the names were before the LORD, on Aaron’s shoulders… for remembrance. For all that has been pondered about this over millennia, here is the life-giving thought for me this morning: As God peers “down” He sees His children, not in mass but singularly, recognizing each of us by name. He sees us as we carry the burdens of one another; as we carry “upon our shoulders” the names of those who would be driven to the ground were they to have to bear them alone.

I have many stones of remembrance on my shoulders this morning, facing upward so God can “see.” I have loved ones laden with cares who I bring before Him. Their names are engraved on the stones. As I slip into my priestly garments, in view of the Living God, I praise Him with renewed passion and vigor. God sees. God knows. God acts. The LORD has asked that I bear their names before Him, on my shoulders… for remembrance.

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In the Hearing of a Fool

Do not speak in the hearing of a fool,
for he will despise the good sense of your words.
Proverbs 23:9

I was thinking how often I’ve been frustrated with God for not giving me a direct answer to a question, not being keen on waiting. I would process those times by thinking He was being silent about it. As I read this proverb and reflect back over the years, a couple of thoughts percolate. The first is: I’m not sure God remained silent as much as He was tending to “first things first.” The picture that comes to mind is of a toddler having asked for a cookie and their mom leaving the house rather than giving them one. They don’t understand mom had to make them from scratch and needed to go buy flour. They just assume she’s ignored them (cue tantrum).

The second thing I’m thinking about is how often, as a parent, I was determined to enlighten my young son to things that were simply too much for him to comprehend at that time in his life. The picture that comes to mind is a mom strapping her toddler into the drivers seat and being aghast that they weren’t able to drive. Hmm.

God not only knows exactly what He’s doing, but He knows when to do it. He knows precisely when to enlighten me because He (and only He) knows when my ears and heart and mind are ready to receive. Fools aren’t destined to always be foolish. God is kind to hold off in telling me a thing if I can’t yet comprehend it. He doesn’t waste words or opportunities to deliver them. He just has impeccable timing, (note to self).

A word fitly spoken is like
apples of gold in a setting of silver.
Proverbs 25:11

 

 

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He Who Hesitates

He called them,
and immediately
they left the boat and their father,
and followed Him.
Matthew 4:22

“He who hesitates is lost.” Oxford Dictionary categorizes this as a proverb and defines it this way: Delay or vacillation may have unfortunate or disastrous consequences. A good Biblical equivalent might be these words from Proverbs 1: For the simple are killed by their turning away, and the complacency of fools destroys them.

For many weeks I’ve been pondering what it is I do when I hear a voice behind me saying this is the way, walk in it. Specifically, I’m thinking about my initial response to that Voice. Jesus says, in John chapter 10, My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. My part, as the sheep, is to HEAR and to FOLLOW.

The part of that equation that I can’t escape for now is the timing of my following. It seems that generally there are two responses when I hear His voice. One is very simply that I hear and follow. I don’t question or hesitate. But that, I find, is often NOT my default response. More often, there is some kind of hesitation, some period of time where I might do a number of things leading up to actually acting. But of those possible variations, I most frequently pause to make my own assessment of my surroundings… to in essence, validate God’s directive. Hum.

Is that assessment period a form of hesitation? And if it is, what might the implications of hesitating be? What might I be risking? What might I lose in that moment?

  • Abraham gets giant kudos for his unquestioned response to God’s life-altering directives. He simply did what God told him to.
  • Moses argued after God gave him his marching orders. God got seriously miffed, but mercifully allowed Moses to express the “flaws” in God’s idea.
  • Mary, the mother of Jesus, is lauded for her immediate acceptance of God’s plan for her life.
  • Zacharias wanted some substantiation after the angel Gabriel informed him of the son his wife would bear. That didn’t go so well for him.

I see a pattern of God’s grace offered to those who hesitate but eventually comply. But, as Zacharias discovered, there was also a price for that hesitation.

On the cusp of a new year, I’m asking God what He would want me to pay special attention to. This idea, that I would mature in the immediacy of my responses to Him, is definitely on the front burner.

I wonder if there aren’t gems that can only be discovered through prompt obedience, gems that go by the wayside when I hesitate. I want the blessings that accompany an immediate “YES.” I want to honor God whether or not I understand the implications of His direction. His word should be enough for me.

My sheep hear my voice,
and I know them
and they follow me.
John 10:27

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‘Day One’ Archives – Structure, Systems & Duplication

Today I’m contemplating cycles of behavior and what it is each person within that cycle holds to in order to keep the cycle… cycling :/ – and because my mind explodes with tangent thoughts, I jettisoned back to this post from the Day One Archives. While God is most certainly a God of order, the “cycles” He creates always and only serve His purposes to advance wholeness, life and purposefulness. Human cycles usually serve a far lesser cause.

In any case, it helped me get out of a negative stream of thought, to re-read and remember how magnificent my God of structures and systems is. And when I’m tempted to create or extend a cycle of behavior I know is not ultimately promoting life, I CAN reach for God for fresh perspective and insight into a new approach.

I hope this re-post encourages you as it has me. – Anne


SolarSystem
Structure, Systems & Duplication

I would never buy a book with this title!

I’m musing about the systems God invented and put in place when He made the universe. He designed earth to essentially look after itself. Geology, astronomy, chemistry, these are all systems. Our physiological body is a system. God made them all.

Humans like to make systems too. We crave predictability and control, doing what we can to project into the future, creating structure (the system’s 1st cousin), to minimize discomfort and maximize our life experience. We do it on a global scale toying with climate control and we bring it to the household in the form of robotic vacuum devises. We devise systems to educate our children, to mass communicate, to take the individual around the world without ever having to leave their desk and laptop or smartphone.

I’m drawn to systems. I like efficiency. I create structure and lists and cubbies for every little thing and I use them for what they’re intended. What’s on my mind these days is my tendency to lay siege to the structures I’m familiar with, so that they become the focus of what I think will bring me what I want, be that safety, comfort, success in my work, spiritual pursuits…pretty much anything that translates into forward motion, (my definition of it). It’s right at this point that I find myself on a precipice, teetering on the verge of out right idolatry.

If I’m not very, VERY careful, I find myself inviting God into the familiar structures of my life, giving him ‘permission’ to use what I know works. But the deal is this: God compares me to a sheep and refers to Himself often as Shepherd. A sheep finds his sense of wellbeing solely in his shepherd. The shepherd may use a staff, a fence, a salve, a grassy field, a stream……. any manner of things he chooses to care for his sheep. But there is no question that the shepherd is the source, providing structure and systems as he sees fit.

A sheep never mistakes a fence for his shepherd. But I do. So God teaches me to hold very loosely the forms I have seen Him use before. Will God use the form again? He is no way bound to. And it’s ludicrous to believe He should because of how well it served Him in the past. Form, structure, systems…… they’re VALUELESS if not contracted by, sanctioned by and inhabited by God. He doesn’t duplicate. He doesn’t have to.

Behold,
I will do a new thing,
Now it shall spring forth;
Shall you not know it?
I will even make a road
in the wilderness
And rivers in the desert.

~Isaiah 43:19~

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Quiet Endurance

Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith,
who for the joy that was set before him
ENDURED the cross, despising the shame,
and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
~ Hebrews 12:2

When you are certain about why you’re doing what you’re doing, the ability to ENDURE becomes a little more attainable. Jesus knew what was at stake as He moved toward the cross and beyond. He knew what would be accomplished through His death and resurrection. I believe He understood the implications of everything He did and everything the rest of humanity was doing (or not doing) in response to His revolutionary message. But did Jesus ever lose perspective? Did He waver for a moment when He asked the Father if there was another way to fulfill His calling? What was it like to be fully God and fully human in those critical hours before His death?  For all the mystery, Jesus firmly resolved to finish what The Father had called Him to. He kept His eyes on the “finish line.” He kept His grasp on what was paramount and He, in harmonious cooperation with The Father, achieved victory.


I like reminding myself of these truths because especially lately, my perspective keeps vanishing. I’ve been easily distracted by a days unexpected details, because for months now, my over crowded schedule has left ZERO margin for error. Consequently, it’s been a deeply disorienting season… there is not a single day that does not have multiple “errors” built in to it (duh). So, round the clock I’ve fought to gain and then re-gain perspective, most days coming up woefully short.

At the same time many, many people in my circle of friends and acquaintances are in seasons they might describe as particularly difficult. “Winter” is lingering, and they are weary. Perspective is illusive.

I’m not made with the capacity to achieve perspective through understanding everything that’s happening around me. I have to find it another way. I have a picture in my mind of being on a ship at sea in a blinding blanket of fog. Jesus is in the crow’s nest atop the main mast and above the fog. His unimpeded view makes possible my salvation and ability to move. “I can of myself do nothing” becomes especially meaningful in that scenario.

Jesus’ perspective was linked to the joy set before Him. And so is mine. Quite literally, Jesus IS the joy set before me. I wait for Him and the eternal union with Him that is my future. That reality makes the arduous “present” endurable, albeit arguably clunky. Forward motion isn’t always graceful.

Quiet endurance, in other words, the ability to be inwardly settled even in a lengthy and painful storm, can be mine. The founder and perfecter of my faith comforts, strengthens and guides me from above the fog.

Let us run
with ENDURANCE
the race that is set before us,
 looking to JESUS.
~ Hebrews 12:1 ~

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Midway – Reflections

We use New Year’s Day as an opportunity to take stock. We give ourselves permission to think and feel, and to contemplate the bits of our lives. That’s fairly remarkable in a society driven to live at light-speed. It seems most of us resolve, not to necessarily embark on new endeavors as much as to apply a fresh application of ourselves to what already is.

Where I have lost view of pieces of my life, I seek to RE-view. Where I have lost a sense of my calling to a thing, I seek to RE-call. Where I recognize I’m lacking clarity I seek to RE-focus. Where I feel lethargic or detached I seek to RE-engage.

I’ve pondered and read these past days, stories of some of my Biblical patriarchs. What was Moses’s Life like between the burning bush and the exodus; between the exodus and the promise land? What was David’s life like between being anointed and becoming King? Or Joseph’s life, between his youthful dreams and the famine poised to destroy the Israelites. How did these men steward the “in between” times?

The truth is, the exciting memorable bits of most endeavors are attached to the beginning and the end of the thing. It’s the “in between” that often doesn’t capture and keep my attention. That’s the harder part to steward, yet I am seeing afresh, that rightly tending to “in between” is nothing short of paramount.

~
Whoever tends a fig tree will eat its fruit.
Proverbs 27:18

Two obvious and simple reasons surface for me. The first is, the substance of a thing is formed “in between.” And it doesn’t form as it’s meant to without intervention. You throw ingredients in a pot so you can eat stew later that day. It comes as no surprise that you have to tend that pot throughout the day. Not particularly fun or memorable, but essential if you want to eat.

~
As in water face reflects face,
so the heart of man reflects the man.
Proverbs 27:19

The second point is hand-in-glove to the first. HOW I apply myself, and the attitude of my heart AS I apply myself matters as much as that I apply myself at all. Without question, sometimes you simply have to grit your teeth and get a thing done. But it makes a world of difference to me and those around me, when my heart is right as I do that thing.

In this new year, I pray that you and I, by stopping the train and giving God a chance to speak to us, will have a fresh orientation to the people and circumstances in our lives. We are marathoners, not sprinters, so the need to take stock and a willingness to shift accordingly will follow us the rest of our days.

~

Please Lord, let me apply myself with renewed purpose to all you have placed before me. 2017 is fully known to You. You ask for my hand, eager to walk me though every day of it.

Even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me.
Psalm 139:10

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Jesus Messiah

There is no more thorough, compelling rendering of the breadth of the beauty of Jesus, than that found in John’s first chapter. So comprehensive is this passage… painting Jesus in the most vivid colors:

He is from the beginning, Eternal
He is the Word
He is God
He made everything that is
Life is in Him
That life is the light of men
Darkness cannot put it out
Jesus was coming into the world that He made
His own people did not know their Maker
Those who DID believe were GIVEN the right
to become His children, born of the will of God
Jesus is credited for the possibility of and the ability to be saved
Jesus, the Word, dwelt with us
We have seen His glory
He is full of grace and full of truth
From that fulness we have received GRACE UPON GRACE
Grace and truth came through Jesus
Jesus, Himself God, made God known to us
He is the Lamb of God who takes away the world’s sin
He was baptized by The Holy Spirit
He is the Son of God
He is Messiah
He is King of Israel
He is the Son of Man

This Christmas, my heart overflows with thanksgiving for Immanuel. That He would come to save, come to reveal, come to reconcile repentant sons and daughters to Himself is more than my mind can grab hold of. While my mind fails to understand, my heart is alive, full of awe and adoration for the Savior of the world.

This Christmas I pray He’d be honored… lifted up as He ought to be, as He deserves to be. I pray I would reflect a woman having received grace upon grace, by giving grace upon grace to my people. I pray I would express to Him the treasure He is… that there is no thing, no one, no pursuit worthy to compare to Him.

~

Riches I heed not nor man’s empty praise
Thou my inheritance, now and always
Thou and Thou only, You’re first in my heart
High King of Heaven my treasure Thou art
Heart of my own heart whatever befall
Still be my vision oh Ruler of all
(Mary Elizabeth Byrne; Eleanor H. Hull)

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Kindness In Suffering

kindness
The Lord is
faithful in ALL His words
righteous in ALL His ways
kind in ALL His works
~ Psalm 145:13,17 ~
~

This beautiful truth found in Psalm 145 has been especially meaningful of late. Life is hard these days… very hard. I’m not the only one I know clinging to Jesus like never before.

It’s difficult to find evidence of kindness when you are suffering, or someone you love is suffering. But it’s there. God has had to reshape my view of kindness. I’m picturing a doctor re-breaking an already broken bone so that it will set properly… terribly painful, terribly necessary. And of course in the grand scheme, a great kindness. Context is everything when I think about the possibility that kindness is present in suffering.

If the Psalmist David got it right, when the Lord is at work, kindness is always present. I stop to look across the vast plain of the people in my life right now. I see cancer and abuse and crippling anxiety and loved ones dying. I see mental illness, financial crisis and demonic influences. I see lethargy and apathy and spiritual weariness so that one battles not to topple over the brink of despair. I see the Church abroad dying for their unwavering commitment to follow Jesus. I see the church at home divided, some fighting tirelessly for Biblical values, others spending their best energy trying to be comfortable morphing along with our modern culture.

That there would be kindness evidenced in some of God’s work is conceivable, but His kindness is present in ALL His works. That’s a far weightier thought for me. I am offered, in the midst of suffering, an invitation to search for the treasure that is the Lord’s kindness. It’s there. And it bears remembering that kindness is a virtue of LOVE. In discovering the Lord’s kindness, I’ve also discovered His love.

Praise you Lord, for Your kindness, in view or out of view. It’s there, and that is all I need to know to anchor in the midst of my disorientation.

~
I led them with cords of kindness,
with the bands of love,
and I became to them
as one who eases the yoke on their jaws,
and I bent down to them and fed them.
~ Hosea 11:4 ~

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‘Day One’ Archives – Thoughts On Transitioning to a New Normal

So many of my peers are experiencing the loss of their parents. I still have the gift of having both my mother and father here. My friends, without exception, remark that you cannot be prepared for the depth of the loss. You think you are, and you aren’t.

Each time I hear that someone has passed on, I’m reminded afresh, the invaluable gift that grief is. God invented it. He knows we need some forum for our pain to live and express, and spend itself. He knows the deep permanent grooves carved by those losses, and in His kindness, He provides for us.

I hope this re-post will encourage you if you are grieving. I hope it will give you fresh insight into those you are caring for in their grief.


grief

These are thoughts not necessarily in sequence. Each paragraph is meant to make sense independent of the others, (fingers are crossed). I’ve written them down for someone I have the great honor of walking beside in their grief.

A man’s spirit will endure sickness,
but a crushed spirit who can bear?

~ Proverbs 18:14 ~

  • When someone has experienced significant trauma, there is no vein of life that is untouched by it. Normal life vanishes. Grief comes, entering the center of the person in pain, and a journey ensues, transitioning them from what was their ‘normal’ to whatever the ‘new normal’ will be.
  • Anyone who has truly experienced the process of grieving will tell you that while there are markers and stages of grief, each journey is unique, customized to the individual and their situation. The way I articulate it is: grief has a life of its own. No one but God gets to say when it’s over, and NO ONE but the one grieving has the right to say where they are in that process.

And when they saw him from a distance,
they did not recognize him.

And they raised their voices and wept,
and they tore their robes
and sprinkled dust on their heads toward heaven.
And they sat with him on the ground
seven days and seven nights,
and no one spoke a word to him,
for they saw that his suffering was very great.
~ Job 2:12-13 ~

  • I believe God invented grief, offering it to us as an indispensable resource that helps us in our profound disorientation. It’s meant in part to serve us until we have our feet again, to the degree that we are able to find stability in our new orientation. In this way, grief is truly our friend.
  • Grief is a gift. It provides a forum for those deepest places within us to express and experience pain and loss. God meets a person there, entering the transition and guiding it. It’s interesting to think about the fact that God gives us this gift, then walks along side, like a caregiver administering whatever is needed for however long it is needed, so that you are never alone.
  • Whatever a persons general disposition, when they are in trauma, those pre-dispositions often present in a manner that appears disproportionate. For instance, a person who would consider themselves moderately high-strung, may find they are having panic attacks or dealing with extreme anxiety. A hug or a simple word of truth might have stabilized in the past. Something proportionate will be needed to assist post trauma. This reminder can be a great gift to your grieving friend, who may silently be wondering if they are loosing their mind.
  • For life altering trauma, the process of transitioning may take years. Grief will run its course during the transition but will never depart altogether. A person who has suffered deeply will never be the same, nor should they be. Our struggle as caregivers is to put down the temptation to persuade them to “get back to normal” or to “move on.” There is no such place, and it puts a terrible burden upon a suffering soul to imply there is. The marks of their wounds are worthy to be remembered, even if the remembering causes pain.
  • A person who has been immersed in the fire of suffering will never be who they once were. But the spectrum of emotions pushes out on both sides, so that while they have never felt such agony, they now have a capacity to feel joy that is proportionate to their pain. It is one of the truly redemptive aspects of experiencing sorrow. Many who have suffered will tell you they are grateful to have this capacity, perhaps even in light of the cost.

Weeping may tarry for the night,
but joy comes with the morning.

~ Psalm 30:5 ~

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The Battle For My Mind

double_minded

What’s going on in my thoughts and how is that affecting the way I respond to my life? For several months this question has been on the front burner as a handful of resources have come my way.

  • From James McDonald: Think Differently (video series)
  • From Marita Littauer: Wired That Way (book & personality profile test)
  • From Pricilla Shirer: The Armor of God (bible study)

I solicited none of these, but one by one, within a matter of weeks and from entirely different sources, they found me. It’s not the first time I’ve been inundated with thematic materials. When it happens I pay attention and ask the Lord what’s going on. The final thematic piece came when my husband and I were invited to bring a message to our church from Philippians 4, titled Think On These Things.

For about 4 months, the following bank of scriptures has fueled much meditation and brought me to a few core thoughts I’d like to try to give language to. There’s nothing earth shattering in my reflections at all, but I’m discovering a flow of thought and a thoroughness in God’s instruction that I haven’t seen before.


2 Corinthians 10:3-6; James 1:2-7;
Ephesians 6:10-17; Philippians 4:4-19;
Romans 12:1-2; 1 Corinthians 14:20;
1 Peter 4

I should also point out, I’m very aware that many people suffer from mental illness, PTSD and related anxiety disorders. There is a great deal of important discovery these days about the brain’s ability to re-wire, to bring some level of relief. The reflections below are generally addressing a demographic NOT dealing with these type of disorders.

Here’s some of my “take-away” at present:

    • The Real War – The primary battle I wage with my adversary takes place in my mind, period. Often I look outwardly forgetting the true front-line is not “out there” but inward, where my beliefs are housed. The objective is to tear down strongholds and lofty opinions I hold that are in opposition to the knowledge of Christ. I’m to “take them captive” in obedience.
    • Wiring – Science tells us that emotions are housed in the brain. It’s within both the limbic system of my brain and the automatic nervous system that my body knows how to respond to my emotions. Scripture similarly paints a picture of my mind informing my heart. God looks at my heart to know the content of my mind because my heart exposes the truth about what I really hold true. And that’s why my adversary targets my mind. He understands my mind is ground-zero. It’s central-command. As the mind goes, so goes the heart. Science is catching up to what God has laid out in His Word. There is no discrepancy whatsoever.
    • The Field of Battle – There are three things I see as I look out over the vast battle-field that is my mind:
      • There are pockets of land where truth has rooted; places occupied by truth. Free places.
      • There are places where falsehoods have rooted. Strongholds occupy that terrain.
      • There are skirmishes across that landscape where truth and falsehoods are warring for occupation.
    • Manning the Post – Philippians 4 describes how and why a person comes to be “calmly happy” and “reasonable” so that they are known for being reasonable, (vs. 4-5). This person is winning the war in the battle for their mind.
      • First the why: they remember the Lord is near. He is both with them AND He is returning for them. That reality thoroughly influences how they approach their life.
      • The how is found in this sequence:
        • They choose gratitude (vs. 6)
        • They release the things that concern them (vs. 6)
        • God in turn dispenses His peace that stands guard over their mind and heart (vs. 7)
        • God gives them a criteria with which to filter their life “real-time” (vs. 8-9)
        • When they choose to “man the post” of their minds using this criteria, the God of peace is with them (vs. 9)
      • God both guards that susceptible mind and provides critical council as this person weighs what ought to enter the portal. This cooperative effort is a picture of what it looks like to be led by the Spirit of God. The Apostle Paul is emphatic that his God will supply EVERY need according to His riches in Christ Jesus (vs. 19).
    • Off the Job – James 1 describes a person not ”manning the post.” Apparently they needn’t bother asking God for council. It wouldn’t do them much good as they have yet to “choose sides.” That undecided  position renders them unstable in ALL their ways. Conversely, God stands ready to give wisdom liberally to the one who does not doubt.

This battle for the mind is a massive, core conversation for every believer. It’s a war we must acknowledge and willingly engage in for the rest of our lives. We ought to expect that as we choose to “think on these things” we will see more and more of the battle field occupied by friendly forces. We should expect to see strongholds exposed for what they are, dismantled and replaced by truth, so more and more of the landscape of my mind is rightly occupied. The peace of God guards. The God of peace is near to provide council. And I am manning my post.

Finally, brethren,
whatever things are true,
whatever things are noble,
whatever things are just,
whatever things are pure,
whatever things are lovely,
whatever things are of good report,
if there is any virtue
and if there is anything praiseworthy
—meditate on these things.
~Philippians 4:8~

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Respect

respect
respect – the condition of being esteemed or honored

I’ve been thinking about my ability to offer respect to another person. I’m reminded that our culture puts a premium on productivity, on a person’s willingness and ability to “put out” something substantive with their time, talents, and initiative.

Not surprisingly then, my criteria for offering respect is attached to that cultural value. I might say, “Do something worthy of respect and I will respect you.” The key word, of course, being do.

I’m pondering this in the first place because I’ve been studying a now 1600 year old personality profiling. It purports 4 general dispositions, one of which is The Phlegmatic (fleg-matic). The Phlegmatic is a peaceful and fairly passive-natured person. They are not easily engaged but extremely steadfast once they come on board. They are the steady-as-she-goes folks that you really want around when others are in conflict. They are measured and careful. You feel safe and steady with a healthy phlegmatic.

Interestingly, one of the Phlegmatic’s core emotional needs is for respect. And they might put it this way, “Respect me for who I am, not for what I do.” That request is nearly inconceivable for non-phlegmatic’s. We wait for a reason to respect, while they declare it already exists.

That’s where I stop and turn to the Lord for instruction, and He does not teach me something new, but reminds me of something I learned (still learning) long ago.

God places the highest premium possible upon a person simply by virtue of their existence. He created them, therefore they are inherently valuable. Further, they reflect in some unique way, an aspect of Creator God. For this reason alone, a person is worthy of my respect. When I offer it, I am paying homage to God first, acknowledging the beauty of His handiwork.

For people with dispositions that need to “achieve” to feel self-worth, this is a little hard to embrace, but we would do well to wrestle a bit with the tension. God does not wait until I “achieve” to ascribe value to me. He does that before I gain any skill-set; before I utilize any talent; before I do anything “worthy.” It also bears peeking at the other side of this coin… that in God’s eyes, my intrinsic value does NOT increase in any measure as a result of my productivity.

Imagine having the temerity to stand in opposition to I AM, by declaring that someone He made has no inherent value, therefore no cause to receive my respect.

“Wonderful are Your works;
my soul knows it very well.”
~Psalm 139~

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‘Day One’ Archives – Fatal Distraction

Part of the Christmas story tells of the man and young woman God called to be the parents of Jesus. They were each rich in Godly character, entering an adventure that would take them where no other humans would ever be asked to go. They played supporting yet crucial roles in the life of Jesus, fulfilling those roles with integrity.

As my thoughts turn toward the impending year, I’m already aware that to maneuver it thoughtfully, something will be required that I do not possess within my flesh. I am learning there is a difference between character and Godly character. The former is an expression of the flesh, that while having certain merits, does not transcend the confines of this life. Godly character has an eternal component, paying dividends both now and into eternity. I cannot have that kind of character without the comprehensive influence of the Spirit of God in me; full sway… and nothing short of it.

As each of us reflect upon the past and ponder the future, I offer this post from the archives. May we own, with sober certainty, our need for God to influence thoughts, emotions and actions. If He does, we will choose well, whatever presents in the coming year. If He is not given that place, we shouldn’t be surprised to find ourselves highly susceptible.

As the return of Jesus draws closer, may we be mindful of the escalating cost of operating independent of our Maker.

Anne


Distraction

So when the woman saw
that the tree was good for food,
& that it was a delight to the eyes,
& that the tree was to be desired
to make one wise,
she took of its fruit and ate…
~ Genesis 3:6 ~

There is a way that
seems right to a man,

But its end is the way of death.
~ Proverbs 16:25 ~

I am the vine,
you are the branches.
Whoever abides in me
and I in him,
he it is that bears much fruit.
Apart from me
you can do nothing.
~ John 15:5 ~

Genesis 3 provides a lens into what humankind does when they are tempted away from what’s central. Following the creation account, it’s the very first story presented to us in scripture. It’s the very first look into human processing when we are not engaged with our Maker, and the very first look at our adversary.

Eve was not with the Lord at the time the serpent came to her, at least not in the way scripture describes their typical interaction. One wonders if that timing was not deliberate on the serpents part. Did God know the serpent had come to her? Was He aware of the content of that conversation? Didn’t He understand Eve’s vulnerability? Why didn’t He come to her aid when He saw her move toward peril? Why didn’t He protect her from herself, let alone her enemy? All we know for certain is that Omniscient, Omnipresent God chose not to intervene. I wonder, would God have entered that moment if He was invited to do so? But He wasn’t.

There was no precedent in humanity’s short existence for how a person might respond to any challenge of the status quo. Free will was going to get a chance to stretch its legs. It had yet to be tested. Up until this moment, there was only harmony, perfection, untainted fellowship and freedom. All was as it was meant to be. There will never be another event in human history where we see the potential within us to handle temptation within a context of perfection. So often we naively think that we are susceptible because of our brokenness and pain. At a minimum, Genesis 3 blows up that argument once and for all. Eve had never experienced soul pain. She was physically, intellectually and emotionally whole.

So the story begins, and Eve dialogues with her yet unrecognized adversary. She then uses her reasoning to assess and respond to this utterly unfamiliar scenario. I believe she makes a sincere effort to choose well. The text clearly reveals she brings all her finite faculties to bear. However, we know she did not utilize her most precious resource, perhaps because God was not present in a familiar way. It may not have occurred to her that God would have had something to contribute to her decision-making process. Remember, this situation had no precedent. There was no such thing as relational sickness or disharmony of any kind. In that moment, and ONLY that moment, creation and creature alike provided a perfectly untainted test-lab.

Eve begins processing. As far as we are told, her partner Adam is not interjecting, nor is the serpent, who remains silent once he has presented his temptation. She simply looks at the tree in question (the ONLY no in a sea of yeses, as one pastor puts it) and applies her virgin skills: The tree was….

good for food (a physical attraction)
a delight to the eyes (an emotional attraction)
desired to make one wise (an intellectual attraction)

There appears to be no particular struggle or inner-wrestling within Eve. She makes her assessment and then takes and eats. Sin enters the created order and enters the human condition.

~

Deep breath and long sigh. Do you have any trouble recognizing yourself in Eve? I don’t. C.S. Lewis calls us “daughters of Eve.” Personally, the association runs deeper than the obvious gender connection.

Two factors make the point for me. First, Eve (informed or otherwise) responded independently in the moment of her temptation and it cost her immeasurably. The second point, which I believe came into play because of her independent posture, is that she was fairly easily and fatally distracted. Her attention was effortlessly drawn away from the bounty God had provided, to the one thing forbidden to her. That combination, autonomy, and the vulnerability attached to its shirt-tail, was fatal.

Autonomy, disconnectedness, willfulness, independence, detachment…. whatever descriptive word resonates, if I am in ANY posture other than that of full dependance, I become highly vulnerable. I, like Eve, will defer to my flesh, to what seems right to me, and choose accordingly. I cannot claim “undue hardship.” I have to concede this tendency lives within me regardless of past or present circumstances.

The Apostle Paul states it like this: For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Scripture is clear, this is an inner weakness I will contend with for the rest of my earthly days. 

The solution doesn’t lie in becoming less weak, but in coming to terms with my weakness and reaching for God. “When I am weak, then I am strong.” This is the other side of the coin, being both familiar and profoundly relevant: “My power is made perfect in your weakness.” (Note to self: that power does not manifest when I have pulled away from Him. My “old self” manifests)

I come full circle then, back to the lowest shelf, where Jesus says with vivid clarity…

“…apart from me
you can do nothing.”

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Safe to Disclose

IMG_5099

I make an assumption that there are an awful lot of folks within the Family of God that remain unable, unwilling or at a minimum reluctant to reveal their true selves to the rest of The Family. There could be many reasons for this, but what about the person who stays “shut down” for fear of rejection or being judged? I make this assumption because generally speaking, Jesus followers (I’m one of them) have a reputation (deserved or not) for lacking compassion and patience.

Beloved, let us love one another,
for love is from God,
and whoever loves
has been born of God
and knows God.
~ 1 John 4:7 ~

The presence of the love of God invites a person to disclose their true selves. It welcomes them to do so, promising that whatever the discovery, love will not in any way be withheld. It also makes a commitment to point that person toward truth. That’s what genuine love does… always. You can’t love someone rightly and withhold truth. They stand side by side.

I believe, perhaps naively, that most people are willing to stretch and grow, to learn and modify behavior for the sake of experiencing a life that’s meaningful and purposeful. But that willingness wanes if that individual feels there’s a threat of being ostracized or marginalized for their confessions. It would be a rare person who would choose to remain unknown within a family where they were genuinely loved, even if they knew they might be challenged in areas of conduct and belief.

~


Whoever loves his brother
abides in the light,
and in him there is
no cause for stumbling.
~ 1 John 2:10 ~

As a follower of Jesus, I am commanded to love, and to speak truth in love. I am also strongly cautioned, that I must NEVER attempt to enlighten another person without being acutely aware of my own shortcomings, so that the attitude of my heart communicates that it is by grace, and grace alone that I live and have my being. People that speak truth in love are humble people. They never forget what’s been extended to them by way of forgiveness and grace.

I love because I’ve been loved. I offer truth because God in His immeasurable grace illuminates me, and keeps illuminating me. I come with my heart in my hand because I have been forgiven much. I come displaying tenderness because I truly desire wholeness and healing and fullness of life for others; the very things I am constantly offered by Jesus.

So, what would a person do, who is used to being marginalized, if fellow Jesus followers demonstrated a commitment to walk along side them for the long haul? Likely they would be looking for rejection but longing for acceptance. I believe most would eventually risk and share those things that lay deep within them.

Maybe some of those folks would assume that acceptance meant they would never be called out about behavior contrary to God’s ways. Maybe some would be looking for a nest to nestle down in and a mamma bird to come feed them for the rest of their days. But I’d wager that the greater percentage would be longing to grow. I believe they’d understand that part of being truly loved means you have to hear and wrestle with hard things when they surface for the sake of forward motion. We are meant to disciple each other, to make sure we are maturing in our faith.

May the Family of God demonstrate a willingness to create safety for people within our borders. May we create a climate where it’s safe to disclose, and in that context of safety, help each other grow. May we be willing to tell each other the truth, humbly and lovingly, not being content to allow one other to “coast” when we know God is calling us “farther up and farther in.” 

Some within our borders will resist personal growth. It costs and it’s often very hard work. Others will run toward the prize full tilt. Let’s be known for our tenderness and compassion, understanding that growth is often painful, and that it happens uniquely for each individual. May the hallmark of our Family be the presence of an indiscriminate, Christ centered LOVE, to any who would embrace it.

Little children,
let us not love in word or talk
but in deed and in truth.
~ 1 John 3:18 ~

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Influenced or Influencing

HorseBeforeCart

Do not be conformed to this world,
but be transformed
by the renewal of your mind,
that by testing you may discern
what is the will of God,
what is good and acceptable and perfect.
~ Romans 12:2 ~

And Jesus answered them,
“See that no one leads you astray.”
~ Matthew 24:4 ~

In Biblical times, Jesus influenced and radically transformed the way His followers conducted their lives. He created the climate and set the temperature. He dictated parameters and priorities. He instigated a revolutionary way of thinking and being. Nothing was the same after He showed up. He was counter-culture, counter-religion… He flipped so many things right-side-up; things nobody realized needed flipping.

We know through the letters the Apostles wrote to the early Church that there were significant challenges to “doing life.” Not surprising considering the radical nature of Jesus’ philosophy of living. They were setting precedent the whole way along, allowing God to define for them something that had never existed before. They stumbled along, getting things very right at times and not so right at other times. They were living contrary to every cultural and religious system in place. We in the West cannot imagine it, not even a little.

The early Church didn’t have the luxury of cutting ties and opening up a new church down the street when they ran into disputes within their ranks. With few exceptions, they kept doing life together. They kept loving one another. They sought council from trusted teachers who could help them sort through discrepancies.

Converted Jews had a ton of tradition that continued to be part of life, but imagine: Gentiles started showing up, and sects started melding, and social classes started mixing… imagine the kinds of interpersonal issues that naturally rose up. These people had NEVER done life together and suddenly, they were brothers and sisters, bound in Jesus. They were now family, pooling every talent and possession, and doling it out so that none of them had need of anything. The reallocation of resources was comprehensive and all-encompassing. They crossed every kind of boundary there was in this new “family.”

Further, they were dealing with life and death matters constantly as they helped the sick and needy in their communities, and as they faced the very real threat of persecution. There was no option but to press in to the hard things. That’s what it meant to be Family. They could not afford to divide. They had to remain bound by their common resolve to live their lives for Jesus, because they would not survive otherwise, nor would they be able to go into all the world, preaching the Gospel and making disciples.”

In modern times, Western Christians opt to segregate for more reasons than we can count. We “celebrate diversity” until it infringes on our ability to practice our beliefs as we want to. We know little of what it’s like to have to press in to hard places and work through delicate matters of dispute. Generally speaking, we are comfortable drawing away from one another and finding a congregation that does not challenge our peripheral beliefs, those things we might categorize as preferences. This mind-set is entirely opposite of the mind-set of the early church. More than reflecting the revolutionary nature of Jesus, we look like a derivative of modern culture. Our priorities and systems of operation reveal as much.

Imagine then, with our “house” in such disarray, our challenge to engage in meaningful discussions with those outside our borders, whose beliefs are counter to those we hold, not to mention those within our borders who espouse varying beliefs about sensitive topics.

~

How would you describe today’s Western Church? What and/or who influences us? Whose set of values do we reflect in our church life? How would you assess our willingness and/or ability to problem solve within our borders? How would you describe our ability to engage in “hot topic” issues within our American culture that are counter to God’s design for living?

I guess I’m curious as to what you have to say about whether or not we are functioning as a healthy Family, reflective of the early Church, who was so clearly and thoroughly influenced by Jesus. Thoughts?

~

~For Reflection~
I Corinthians 6:1-3
Ephesians 4:1-7
1 Peter 1:13-22
1 Peter 2:9-10

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