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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Forgiveness isn't Cheap 2

Forgiveness isn't cheap. It costs a lot. As I worked through the process of forgiving my coworker (which came more quickly than I thought), I realized how much I was going to lose by forgiving so quickly.
The first thing I was going to lose was my pride. If I forgave, I needed to assume a posture of humility because it meant that I knew I wasn't any better than them.
The second thing I would lose was my right to hold a grudge. If I forgave, I had to let it go, never to be brought up again.
The third thing I would lose is the anger I felt when I looked at them the next day.
It did cost me a lot to forgive. But, the freedom that I gained is way more valuable than what I lost.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Forgiveness isn't Cheap

I learned a hard lesson in forgiveness this week. I had a coworker verbally attack me in front of my boss. It was especially hard because I considered this person not only a coworker but also a friend. I felt completely betrayed, and was unsure how to consider our future working relationship. The relationship is still strained, but I know God doesn't want me to keep it that way. I searched my heart on the matter and still wished the best for them, but was still trying to work through he process of forgiveness.
While this person was hurling insults, I identified with Christ in a new way. I'm sure the physical beating he endured were brutal, but I think the emotional pain he must have felt that only one person bothered to come see him lose he very life He openly gave to everyone he came in contact with. That was how I felt with this person. I spent time with them, said no unkind words about them to anyone,and stuck up for them when others judged their work performance. I felt like I did everything I could to be a good friend, and received nothing but scoffing in return. It cut me to the core, and I'm sure as his body slowly suffocated him, the neglect and betrayal of Jesus' closest allies took his breath away long before that. It cost him quite a bit for us to receive the freedom of forgiveness. How does he repay them? "Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.."
My response to this coworker should be the same.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The look of Community

I entered the cozy living room and plopped down on the big red and white couch with my Bible in hand, waiting to engage in our weekly bible study. As the others arrived, we engaged in small talk about the week as we sipped on our coffee and consumed the assorted pastries in the kitchen. Soon, it was time to begin. The study began as it always did with the sharing of prayer requests. As one man shared, he paused for a moment, his face quickly reddening with embarrassment. He uttered one word, and we all knew what he meant. He simply said “Help!” Although he never fully explained what was troubling him, we all could relate to his feelings of helplessness and despair. As a group, there was not much we could offer him. So, we did the one thing we could do in that situation, we gathered around him, laying hands on him and praying for him. When we were finished, I looked at the clock. In what seemed like a second, I realized that an hour and a half had gone by and it was time to go home. We ended the night and we all got into our cars to began our journeys home. It has been over fourteen years since that fateful night, and it still remains one of the most important bible lessons I ever learned. That night was a turning point for our group. We went from acquaintances to a community of believers, from friends to brothers and sisters. It was the first night where we set aside our agenda, and looked to see what God was doing.
Some of my biggest God moments have happened sitting on someone living room sofa or in a big, comfy chair at the nearest Starbucks. They don't look like places where God would move, but God will use anywhere to accomplish his agenda. Community is vital to a Christian's spiritual walk. If you open the doors to your home, open up the opportunity to "sharpen" the people in your life.   

Monday, September 27, 2010

With My Headphones Off

I made an unexpected trip to Starbucks last Sunday with an agenda. I wanted to get a good chunk of writing done after church. I came prepared with all that I needed, including my books computer, and best of all, my headphones for my i-pod.  I love nothing more than to shut out the world with the background noise of my music entertaining me while I wade through commentaries and resources. I set my table out and got ready to begin. I bent down and searched through my bag looking for my headphones to no avail. A bit miffed, I started flipping through pages with only the drone of the piped in tunes that has given Starbucks its appeal. Then, something quite unusual happened.
A police officer that had come through the door saw my book's outside cover and asked me if I was doing something with art. When I replied no and explained that I was writing a "religious" book, he said " I read the DaVinci code once. That's as about as close to religion as I get." A woman, who had overheard the exchange, asked me what I was working on. After my reply,she wished me luck and applauded me for attempting such a huge undertaking. A few moments later, a man sat next to me at the adjacent table. When he spoke to the nearby woman about his computer, he remarked that he was a writer. The woman said to him, " She is a writer, too. You two should talk." This then led into a forty minute conversation,in which he gave me lots of information about opportunities in the area, as well as some insights into the writing business. I left the exchange feeling like it was a God moment. This would have been one that I had missed, if I had my headphones on.
But, with my headphones off, I gave God room to move.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Banquet Table

The table is ornately decorated with the finest of fare.
The scent of decadent food wafts through the air.
I take my seat thoroughly anticipating a feast.
Sometimes I run to the table and on my toughest days, I am carried there,
but I am always welcome.
"Taste and See that the Lord is good."
I sit, dine, and enjoy.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Ebb and Flow of Writing

As I wade through the ebb and flow of writing (with more ebbs than flows) I realize how easy it is to get caught up in the approval or disapproval of others. After my second rejection of my magazine article, I felt myself doubting once again that I am cut out for writing anything of value, let alone a decent magazine article. It is in these moments that I am reminded of God's calling not only to me but also to all of us. Proverbs 31:26 says " She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue." Whether spoken or written, I should always be prepared to "give a reason for the hope I have" because I never know who God might be putting in my path.

Monday, September 20, 2010

A small snag

I have a hot a bit of a snag on my writing journey. I have been dealing with the beginnings of carpal tunnel syndrome for the past month. It has been getting to the point where I can only write pain free for about twenty to thirty minutes. It is a major source of frustration for me right now, and I realized that my entire house is not conducive to good writing posture. As I make adjustments to help combat this problem, please join me in my prayer that I can find natural surgery remedies. Thanks!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Always Welcome at the Table

My children take great delight going to church every Sunday, but they especially love one part: communion. They smile with glee as they dip their bread in the cup like the rest of the people around them. I delight in watching it myself. Most people probably think my husband are nuts to let them participate in this holy tradition, but my husband and I made a pact that they could choose to participate in whatever they want when it comes to service to allow them their rightful place. I have always loved Jesus when he said "Let the little children come to me,and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. then He put his hands on them and blessed them. " God has a heart for children. He came to earth as a baby, after all, instead of like the king he already is.  Jesus loves children. I do not want to prevent them from having an experience with Jesus.  My children will always be welcome at the banquet table of Christ.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Love is a Verb

One of the most life-transforming verses in the Bible for me is Isaiah 58:9-11: “If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves on behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will shine in the darkness, and your night will become like noonday. The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.” Love is an action, not a feeling. Love is a verb, not a noun. It doesn’t magically fall into your lap or fall on you with a wave of a magic wand, like an intoxicating spell. Love begins as a feeling, but it must be cultivated with action. Fire starts with a spark, but if it is not nurtured, burns out very quickly. If it is fed with the right ingredients (carbon dioxide, oxygen, etc.) it can grow into a flame that is impossible to burn out. Love cultivated by action turns into a flame impossible to burn out, and can easily engulf anything (or anyone) to which it is directed. 
Do you have the type of relationship with Jesus that is burning and impossible to burn out, or smoldering, and it is a struggle to maintain?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Leaning Against Jesus 3

Larry Crabb, in his book Understanding People, goes into great detail about the inner workings of people. He first asserts that we are all made in the image of God. Because of this likeness, we follow a certain pattern for fulfillment. God exudes the same characteristics, but He is already the fulfillment of our inner longings. We bear the image of God in four ways: we deeply long for relationship with God and others, we rationally evaluate our surroundings, we feel emotions based on those thoughts and we make choices based on those feelings. (1977,p.95).
We were made for relationship. This is evident from Genesis all the way to Revelation. God created us for His divine pleasure and relationship. In the same way, we long for deep, meaningful relationship. Unfortunately, we look to meet that need in relationships other than God. When those relationships fall short, we become disappointed. We react to that sadness in two ways, we run from it and swear off relationships forever, or we jump into the first one that comes our way. In Genesis, God made everything good until one thing: “It is not good for the man to be alone…” We have been looking to fill that void ever since.
That’s where love comes in. We feel love, which comes in many forms: erotic, brotherly, love for things, love for family. That feeling compels us to reciprocate in some fashion. The problem is that when someone lacks that love they once had for whatever reason: divorce, rebellion, death, etc. they stop doing loving things for them. They allow the feeling to dictate the amount of actions. God is love. He embodies love. He does not allow action (or lack thereof) to dictate His loving actions. He calls us to love in this same way. 

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Leaning Against Jesus 2

Yesterday, I wrote a little about the interaction of John leaning against Jesus' bosom in chapter thirteen of his gospel. He chooses to focus on the theme of love. Gary Burge comments on this account by stating “This is not a sentimental attachment Jesus expects among his followers. Rather, this is love that translates into a decision to act in profound ways. This is why John chooses to include some of His most loving acts toward His people. He also gives his commands to love that John chooses to emphasize in his account. John’s gospel is where the reader learns of God’s great love for the world (3:16), His mission to save it (4:42), and to give the world light and love (6:33 and 12:46.) Jesus then commands his disciples to show their true loyalty by going out into the world and meeting the needs of the people (17:18, 20:21).
Although John’s gospel can be summarized as a proclamation to believe in the Son of God, John is also known for telling the world of God’s love. I believe it is from this one event that he speaks from experience. I’m sure there are many times when John experienced Jesus’ love first hand. But, out of all of the events John chose to highlight, This is the one that I experience Jesus love for myself.
With any love relationship comes a certain amount of heartbreak. Otherwise, you would know right away that you never really loved someone. John had every right after Jesus’ death to forget him in an effort to not open up the heartbreak of losing his dearest friend. He could have denied His existence. He could have chosen not to invest in Peter’s life, the person whom he is cited to be paired with on more than nine occasions. Instead, he chooses to carry on Jesus’ work and start a church based on those lessons. The love that John is talking about is not a feeling. Love is only love when it is translated into action. 

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Leaning Against Jesus

Remember for a moment your first boyfriend or girlfriend. Remember what it was like in those first few months of dating. Your mind is consumed with thoughts of him. You long for the moment when you can see him again. You can hardly function in your daily routine without your mind drifting towards that last intimate phone call or romantic escapade. You remember all of the hand holding, the gentle peck on the cheek or the arm around your shoulder. In hindsight, you wonder how you ever survived the day before that relationship.
I’m sure as you remember the fondness in the beginning phase of that relationship, your mind quickly jolts to the end of it. The gut wrenching pain that accompanied the words “ this just isn’t working out between us” or “ It’s not you, it’s me”, or the dreaded “I just want to be friends.” You vowed you would never love again. In hindsight, you wonder how you ever survived the days after that relationship.
Maybe you were lucky enough to have married your first boyfriend or girlfriend.   But you are probably like the majority of us who hit a home run in love once, only to strike out a few months later. I can safely assume that in the first few months after the break-up you felt like you were going to die. I’m sure those once romantic thoughts turned into thoughts of despair and desperation, saying to yourself “I will never find another love like him.” Eventually your heart moves on to the next cute guy on the college campus or working the cash register at your job. And then you love again.
John had that relationship with Jesus. John was one of the lucky ones to be a part of the inner circle of Jesus. He followed him wherever he went, saw things only he and two other people saw and sat and learned from the Master. The Bible gives many illustrations of the intimate relationship John had with Jesus. But, none are quite as tender or revealing as John 13:25: “Leaning back against Jesus, he asked him ‘Lord, who is it?’”
Because the twelve are eating a meal, it was customary for them to recline. However, only one disciple chose to lean back against His bosom and speak to him privately. Only John dared to enter Jesus’ personal space and ask him such a personal question in such an intimate way. Compared to today, if someone decided to enter my personal space, I would automatically want to back away from that person. But, Jesus doesn’t do this. Instead, He chooses to honor John’s question and answer it plainly. Jesus was famous for answering a question with a question. He was also known for explaining things in stories to make the listener wrestle through things and draw his own conclusion. This time, he wanted everyone at the meal to know who his betrayer was going to be. He also wanted John to be the first to know. He didn’t shrink away when John got close, or turn his face from him. He answered him quickly and plainly. 

Do you have the type of relationship with Jesus that you feel comfortable leaning against Jesus or backing away from him?