continuing to work on this…
Originally posted on beyond the mundane:
continuing to work on this…
Originally posted on beyond the mundane:
A lesson I am still learning.
Originally posted on beyond the mundane:
At the end of the 40 years, the Hebrews were allowed their promise. Lead by Joshua now, not Moses, Joshua led the people to the Jordan River. The Jordan River is nowhere near as magnificent at the Red Sea. In fact it is not a challenge to cross over…or at least not all the time. But when the time came for Joshua to lead the people past the river, it was flood season and no possible way to cross the Jordan. But again, God found a way to work through that which seemed impossible and made a way for the Hebrews. God gave Joshua a word to speak to the people: “sanctify yourselves. Tomorrow God will work miracle wonders among you”. This time the people had a choice. They could stay in a less than mediocre life, but safe life, on the one side of the Jordan River or they could embrace the unknown. Nothing ahead seemed sure or certain. The river itself was flooded. But this time the people and Joshua walked confidently in the promise of God. The waters were separated for the second time, allowing the Hebrews to walk on dry land. On the other side, the Hebrews had reached their land that was promised long before that generation even lived. But it was not finished there. Other people lived throughout that land. Jericho was ahead.
I fully believe that the message Joshua relayed to the people was profound. If they were going to walk in the promise of God and actually live it out, they had to face the difficulties ahead. If they wanted the full promise of God they would have to leave the banks of the Jordan River, cross on the dry land, and move forward. They could have lived that less than mediocre life of safety. But they were not living. They were barely breathing. But in the Promised Land, they would be living a life that was anointed by God. Defended by God. Prepared by God. Jericho was just one of many people they had to face in order to obtain their promise.
Oldie but felt like sharing it again because of today being Valentine’s Day
Originally posted on beyond the mundane:
Valentine’s Day can also be celebrated another way. It celebrates being single. People neglect the brighter side of things. Being single on this holiday or just altogether is not a death sentence. It is a chance to be happy with yourself- to know who you are and be okay with just that. It is an opportunity for self-discovery. It is about identity. For me, that means I am defined by God, not by men, especially in dating. Do not be jealous of couples that spend time together this time of year. Do not be bitter. It will destroy you. Instead, be happy for them; that they found what they were looking for. Hold onto the hope that you could have love too. Romantically, relationally, or just interpersonally. Love others but love yourself. Be happy to be you. Do not try to be defined by a relationship. Just be you. Celebrate you. Celebrate being alive. Embrace it.
And with that my last few comments on this holiday are simply this…God created us with a desire deep within our being that yearns for love. Yes, we all ache for friendships and closeness with others. However, we each inherently desire love that takes our breath away. We want the fairy tale. Here is my advice: do not forge it, force it, or falsify it. Just wait. Yes fine, date if you so desire. But let your heart be something that is not so easily given away. Wait for the right person at the right time. God created you and thus knows your heart. Trust him with a confidence instead of worry, self-pity, anger, bitterness or compromise.
I write tonight out of a lot of built up thoughts and emotions regarding some current events. I write in honesty. I write knowing full well that someone, or maybe several people, who read this will find me as the very thing I am writing about. I am aware that some people will pre-judge me. I’m aware that some already have. I will not go into the specific events, as the events alone are not the reason or focus for this post and thus not something I feel like debating.
I have seen a trend lately that if someone disagrees with you on any level such as religious belief, sexual orientation, behavior, political view or otherwise, in their disagreement it then almost automatically makes them a person lacking in respect, tolerance, or love and in turn making them a bigot.
Let’s get one thing very clear from the start of this post: just because I may disagree with you about a behavior (s), lifestyle, decision, voting party or whatever else, it does not mean I think of you as less than a person. It does not mean I find you inferior. It does not mean I am holier than you. It does not mean God hates you. Religious people can find enough reasons to judge and condemn someone for not believing the same thing as them. So can anyone else. That is where I find the problem.
I am a Christian. I know what I believe spiritually, Biblically, politically, and why I believe such things. I back things with scripture and prayer. Anyone who knows me, knows that I am opinionated, blunt, and honest. I’m fine with being defined as such. However, I can disagree with, be opinionated about, and honest towards any person or subject matter with grace, love, and compassion. I think that is the Biblical approach according to Christ.
He always loved first.
This is exactly where I have found fault on Christians, Christians that continually walk in ways that go against God’s heart, design or calling and justify such behavior by saying God loves them. Period. I see it all the time with the ministry I work with in xxxChurch. Our slogan is “Jesus Loves Porn Stars”. Granted we know the slogan is catchy, intriguing and potentially sacrilegious, but more than anything, we believe it is indeed true. We also know that people will try to think, “Oh great, he loves me. I can still live however I want and still walk in His love”. Just because Jesus loved first does not mean that’s where His love ended.
There is another side of Jesus, the side people like to ignore more often. He went to the Temple and over turned the tables of people that were corrupt. He flipped over tables of the money changers because they withheld money and abused their position. He flipped over the tables of those offering animals for sacrifice, all the while giving unclean, blemished, or wrong [according to their laws] animals. He was mad at the greed. He was saddened at the compromise. He was livid at the deceit. And he let them all know that he disagreed. He was also Jesus [trump card!] and acted out against the religious, not the secular culture.
You can then look at another Jesus story and see how graciously, lovingly, and compassionately he was toward the Samaritan woman. She was a woman, harlot [or in our world, a slut], an adulterer, a liar, and probably other things. Not to mention she was of a half-breed race that “good” Jews avoided. Yet Jesus sat there and loved her in spite of disagreeing with her.
I wish Christians could be an example to our culture, one that is drilling the idea of tolerance into our brains, and then yelling at us [or anyone else] if we disagree with someone because of __________ [fill in the blank]. I wish that in our disagreement, other Christians, un-churched, and the rest of culture would see people that, in spite of disagreement, would still be loving toward others. That we would exemplify Christ’s love for the world. Tolerance is a word that I hate. It is, by the definition of the majority, a word that describes accepting and loving people no matter what, yet it is intolerant of anyone with different opinions, regardless if they are religiously based or not.
So to you, the reader, I ask that you understand something very close to my heart. God loves you. No matter what Christians say, no matter what culture says, no matter what family says, no matter what politics say. God loves you. I’m sorry if someone has mistreated you or done anything to make you feel like you are less than worthy of his love, especially in the name of God or religion. But I am not sorry if I disagree with you on any of the things I have already mentioned. I am not sorry if I disagree with you because my faith and religious belief [really dislike that word] contradicts your lifestyle, behavior, attitude, etc. Even if I disagree with you, know that I still love you. I still believe God loves you. And I still believe that you matter.
Living out love is tolerance. Agreement does not equate tolerance. Let’s not get those two confused.
So today, I write something very simple and more of a “food for thought” kind of thing. We had yet more snow cover the ground.
I love it. It is beyond peaceful. Today’s snow was heavy with snowflakes bigger than I’ve seen in a while. It accumulated pretty quickly too. As I left work and drove home, I couldn’t help but gaze at the beauty. When stopped, I had to snap a few pictures. By the time I got home, I had easily 4 or more inches of heavy packed snow that was resting on the top of my Jeep. I decide to scrape my good and get as much of the snow off as I was parking in the garage. Honestly my day had been good. I was a bit exhausted from being up since 4am going off 3 hours of sleep, and with plenty on mind. But I didn’t mind cleaning off my car and going inside to rest from my early and long day.
It was only after I pulled my car into the garage to find that I have a long crack across the entirety of the lower portion of my windshield. Immediately, I got angry. It was another frustration of something happening. Honestly, I may have said a few words under my breath that were anything but decent or tasteful. I couldn’t even deal with it. I walked away from my car and went right upstairs to take a nap. I needed to get my mind off this distraction and frustration. I was mad at myself for being mad the way I was mad. I was mad at the fact that my Jeep now has a 3 foot crack across my windshield, and I am not even sure how it got there.
Then I realized, the crack was another thing to worry about, but something that was not that big of deal in the grander scheme of things. There are far more important things to worry about. There are so many more things to care about and focus my attention. That crack isn’t going anywhere right now. I don’t have the money to get a new windshield. So it has to remain. But my attitude does not. I think that’s a huge part of why I got mad.
We can so easily get distracted and angry, prideful and selfish on things that are not of greater importance. When my attitude can so easily shift from being prayerful and happy on the drive home while looking at the beautiful snow, to angry and using language I shouldn’t…there’s a bigger issue. Today, though simple, was a frustrating reminder of our lives as Christians. Even when no one else is watching, can see what we are doing or can hear what we are saying, those private moments away from an audience are the moments that show your true character. Those moments show your attitude toward yourself, and especially your attitude toward God. We can choose in moments throughout our days to being of godly character, love, patience, kindness, holiness, and purity. Getting angry, like in my situation today, is not wrong. I’m mad that my window is now damaged. But my reaction to my anger is the point. I chose to respond in a way that completely opposes His heart, as well as His desire for me to live.
Regardless of the moments you face, tomorrow, throughout the week, and so on, you have choices to make. You can respond in ways that still honor Him, even if no one else can see, or you can respond and react in ways that reveal your heart instead of His.
I have to say…the end of my weekend, Monday in particular, could have turned into one very bad day. I traveled to good ole’ Lakeland this past weekend- land of my alma mater, land of gators, and a place that I absolutely love. My college roommate [one of them] was getting married and I had the honor of being her guest. The weekend itself was good, strange at times, and full of nostalgia, but good. I always love seeing my best friend, even if brief. I always love, LOVE, seeing godly couples embark on a Gospel centered marriage. I love being able to drive past places that I hold special in my heart. But like I said, this past Monday, at the end of my trip, could have been rough.
I was supposed to be flying out on an 11 am flight out of Orlando International Airport. I fly standby so, granted, I know there are always risks of not getting on a flight. When I was getting ready to fly down to FL I double checked the returning flights to even see if it was worth trying to get out. Everything seemed fine, but man, just a few days can change everything. A few hours can change even more.
On Monday morning I dropped off my rental car, and walked to security. It was busy, but not unlike anything I’ve seen at Orlando. What I found out though, was that on every flight with United Airlines, there were dozens of standby plus each flight booked to capacity. Honestly, it would be a sheer miracle to get on any flight to any airport. I tried for 3 different flights, with different destinations, with not even a glimmer of luck. My mom had the suggestion to look into buying a return ticket to Atlantic City on Spirit. I was reluctant because, well, I’m broke and had no desire to spend money. She then told me that I needed to get out on Monday because I would otherwise be stuck in Orlando for several days due to inclement weather hitting the Northeast on early Tuesday morning.
So I went down to Spirit Airlines’ ticketing desk. There was no line. In case you didn’t know, they’re a small airline with travel to Central America and the Continental US. What’s crazy to me was that there were several employees that could have helped me but, for whatever reason, the one that did help me ended up being the very thing to change my day. By this point, I had already been at the airport for 6 hours with no flight in sight. After probably two hours of trying to figure out a flight via United and trying to work out an option of being standby on Spirit, I knew I needed to fly out, even if that meant buying a ticket. The girl, Melissa, was one of the most helpful airline employees I have ever worked with. Anyone who knows me knows I travel a lot, yet she was by far among the most pleasant I have experienced. It started with simple conversation and bonding over our shared birthday next month. Yup, just two strangers, with the same birthday, hanging out. Even after purchasing my ticket, we continued to chat, the conversation getting deeper, more personal, revealing more of who each of us are. It was great.
At the end of her shift, as she was about to leave, Melissa asked me what I would be doing for the next literally 7 hours until my flight. I simply said I’d wait. Instead of me waiting, she decided to invite me to lunch with her and her sister. Talk about the Kingdom. You see, in our probably 2 hour conversation at this point, we had learned a few things about each other, including we both loved the LORD. As believers, there is something that connects each of us, and that is simply the love of God. It doesn’t we’ll like every person we meet, nor does it mean we have to, however it is a call to love one another. Melissa, however, took it a step further. She could have easily gone home at the end of her shift. She could have easily chosen to keep at basic chitchat. She could have definitely not invited me to lunch. But that’s not what happened. We went to lunch, and her sister joined us. It was great. Relaxing. Nice to not be at the airport for a few hours. Our conversation was exciting, everything from God to travel to missions to boys [of course- we're girls].
I’m not saying what happened that afternoon was so incredibly profound, but I do believe it was a beautiful example of Kingdom love [love that comes with the unity of believers].
Like I said, my day could have been bad. I could have gone from flight to flight getting bumped and getting stuck in Orlando. I could have [and would have] been exhausted from the effort and disappointment of standby lists remaining full. And I probably would have been stuck at the airport for days had I not bought that ticket. But even with buying the ticket, I would have waiting 7 hours until my flight. Granted, I would have been okay, I would have managed. It has happened before and I managed. But that’s not the point.
The point is that someone went out of their way. Someone intentionally showed the love of God, despite their own exhaustion. Someone purposefully befriended a literal stranger. I can’t think of a better example in my life seeing someone live out their faith to a stranger, and not be on a mission trip putting in their Christian duty. My challenge to all of you who read this is simple: be intentional, be purposeful, be loving. Be Christ, in all situations, in all places, to all people.
Update and additional thoughts coming soon…
Originally posted on beyond the mundane:
There was the harlot facedown.
She was accused of something. It may or may not be true. She was condemned as a harlot. It was simply accusation. She was apparently caught in the act of adultery. What of the man she was with? Why only her? Dragged from the bed into the streets. Taken away to guaranteed death. Surrounded by only hate, she was on her knees weeping. Aside from the possibility of her guilt (or innocence) she was not even given a chance. No room for apologies. No room for defense. Just certain death. The mob of hate surrounded her with stone in hand. It was in the waiting of the first release that time stood still. A beautiful stranger rose to his feet. He stepped in. Knelt beside her. Maybe he brushed the tangled hair out of her face. Maybe he kissed her forehead. Maybe he wiped blood from her brow. He then gazed into the mob. The condemners. When she had no chance of survival, he stepped in and spoke up for her behalf. Who were they to condemn, those hypocrites? Who were they to think that they could take life without a second thought, those murderers? Who were they to take her value of life away? With stones? Hate. Anger. Curses.
The stranger wrote something in the ground. Gently. Or fiercely? As he wrote the unknown the mob dispersed, knowing they would not have their death. The woman would not die. Not that day. The harlot would live. The harlot would not bleed anymore.
The past few months or so, a 20 somethings group that I am involved in has been looking into personal disciplines for our relationships with the LORD.
And I realized tonight how I kind of get angry about this subject.
For weeks we have discussed in detail the specific disciplines of prayer, study [the Bible, Christian books, etc.], meditation [not the kind done in yoga, etc. but the idea of yes clearing the mind but infilling it with more of God while removing distractions], and fasting. Some of this disciplines I do regularly, the others I still do but can definitely improve on being more disciplined. The idea of going in depth into discussing these disciplines is to see how we can each grow in our relationship with God, and how in growing that relationship, it will inevitably affect the community around. Hence, inward to communal disciplines.
It has been great talking over these subjects, hearing from older pastors, people sharing their knowledge on specific disciplines…
…but tonight I got heated. I got kind of mad actually. Not mad at anyone in particular but at the collective Church. I’m deeply sad for the Church. We waste so much time in programs and curriculums and trips, which yes are all great things, however they are not things that will likely bring personal change to each individual. Again, those things are good in context, but for the sake of what I am writing about tonight, somethings they get in the way. I got mad because I unsurprisingly hear so many pastors and church-goers complain about how they get nothing out of church, they are bored, they are struggling spiritually and don’t know why, or [fill in the blank of excuses].
Going over each of these disciplines taught me something pretty big yet so simple. Look at this way…
Let’s say you want to get in shape. Its the new year. I am sure plenty of you reading this will relate in that you set a “New Year’s Resolution” to lose weight. Great idea… but you’ll probably fail at it and this is why. You have a great idea but no game plan. The idea is great but you are lazy and say “I can do it later”. Its already January 13th… if you haven’t already started your New Years Resolution to lose weight… you probably won’t. I don’t mean this to be harsh, but to make a point. If you want to lose, let’s say 40 pounds, a good first step is to 1) buy fitness programs or machines for home or 2) get a gym membership. Secondly, it might be good to buy gym clothes, sneakers, water bottles, weight gloves, etc. Spending money on gym stuff will be more incentive for you to actually do something about the problem you have or the goal you have desired. Heck you can do all of that, but if you still only show up to the gym, and do nothing, you won’t get healthier. Period. It just won’t happen.
Your spiritual life is just like that. You can say you want to be a better Christian and, with all great intentions, still be a very lousy one. Until you actually create a lifestyle of discipline, you will not- I repeat- will not be a better Christ follower. Jesus Christ was incredibly disciplined. Whether you believe in him or not, it is undeniable that the story of Jesus is one dripping with love, discipline, and matching of lifestyle and beliefs. As a Christ follower, wanting to love him is not enough. Actions are proof of your love. Wanting to have a heart like Christ is not enough. You won’t suddenly love people one day. It just won’t happen. You won’t suddenly be knowledgable of the Bible. You won’t, unless by pure miracle sake, be free of an addiction like drugs or pornography.
Discipline, I believe, is one of the very things lacking in our churches today. We are an anorexic church because we are anorexic believers that want to change but refuse to put in the work. We are believers that wonder why we are just as broken as people outside of Christ, because we only got saved and did nothing else. We are so spiritually anorexic because, rather than praying for change and believe He is able, we just settle and compromise and give up. We spiritually slowly dying if we refuse to invite God to be a part of our marriages, our families, our churches through prayer and study of His word. We want to be the kind of Christian that is a Billy Graham or some other big shot of the Christian faith, yet we wonder why we can’t get over our personal sin struggles.
Discipline is the answer. Discipline is what makes you stronger. It is what gives you power, strength, diligence, resilience, perseverance, and courage to be the kind of Christ follower that actually looks like Christ. That means investing time without distraction in reading the Bible, in studying it-through commentaries, books, and other tools, in turning OFF the phones, computers, tablets, and just being in the silence of the heart and mind and talking and listening to God. It means investing in the sacrifices like fasting…that may mean for you to fast food entirely, partially, or some other variation, or in the more common broader term, sacrificing something else [a desire, need or want] for the sake of pursuing God more [i.e. not going on Facebook or social media for extended amount of time].
Why is that we can be so willing to watch Netflix for hours (guilty) yet we can’t study the Bible the same? Why is that we quickly remember lyrics and movie quotes yet when it comes to recalling the Bible, we blank? I see a big disconnect with us- the collective Church- and our pursuit of God. We are missing something and I believe it is discipline. If you want to grow in the LORD more you need to make the change. Stop being a lazy, compromising, or stubborn Christian and pursue God. Yes it takes work. Yes it is about discipling yourself, but just like working out and exercising to be healthy, the results are worth the effort. And you only get out of it what you put in. Instead of being spiritually anorexic, why not be spiritual fit and healthy? No more excuses. No more pity party. No more waiting. You can make the change starting now.
I absolutely love Christmas time. I pretty much celebrate it come Thanksgiving all the way through the winter. I love the joy that comes with it. I love the parties and the candy and the cookies and the eggnog. I love movies like Elf, A Christmas Story, and Little Women. Candlelight services. Snow, snow, and more snow.
Of course, I love the story behind the celebrations. You might know the story I refer to. It is not about Santa or elves or reindeer. The story is about a baby being born in basically an animal barn, a girl with the “16 and pregnant” situation, and a fiance who is faced with the question of unfaithfulness and public embarrassment.
Can you imagine being Mary? You’re a young girl betrothed to a man who is probably much older. Women had no legal rights. She was probably engaged to marry him by the way of arranged marriage. And then the scandal happens. She finds out she will be with child. Think about how that would have looked. A young maiden, pregnant and engaged, in a culture where women had no rights and were relatively dispensable compared to men. The bigger question who the father was. Joseph was potentially at risk of being accused of impregnating a woman out of wedlock. If not Joseph, then I’m sure Joseph and the rest of the community would be wondering who the father really was. She probably was terrified of the potential consequences- being an adulteress was a death sentence- not to mention the public shaming of the scandal of promiscuity.
Switch gears now.
Joseph, the fiance, was put in quite the awkward position. Quite the frustrating decision to have to make. Think about it from his perspective. He was probably frustrated that his almost wife was most likely a harlot by societal standards. Virginity and faithfulness [on the woman's side] were an absolute. Joseph had every legal right to divorce Mary- society in Israel back then required a legal termination of engaged almost like a divorce. He could have left her to the public shaming and even potential death. He could have ruined her. He could have…but he didn’t.
Joseph is the person of interest for me this year in the Christmas story.
Joseph was a man of character, as Mary also was. But all too often so much focus is placed on Mary because of the virgin birth, her willingness and acceptance of God’s plan. I believe she is due all respect- the LORD definitely chose her for her role in the story. Yet I also believe Joseph was just as equally chosen for his role. He embraced his role just as Mary did. He may disappear from the stories of Jesus’ life later on, for reason we don’t know [could have been death, etc.]. His character and reliance on the LORD is so evident throughout the the Christmas story and the escape to Egypt. The first few years of Jesus’ life were made possible by the God working through Joseph. Had he not been willing, had he not been one of integrity and honor and faithfulness to God, his, Mary and Jesus’ lives would look very different. He chose to take on the fatherhood role of a baby not his own. He chose to protect Mary’s dignity rather than shame her. He chose to raise Jesus as his own son and teach his the ways of a carpenter- the task all fathers did for their sons. I would imagine that Jesus as a young boy learned the heart of the Father by learning the heart of Joseph- seeing his character lived out on the day to day.
I believe Joseph is a part of the Christmas story we cannot be so easy to forget as it is one to teach us much about ourselves and our willingness to serve God and others. We can learn character from him. We can learn sacrifice. We can learn discernment and faithfulness, especially when looking at their escape to Egypt.
As you celebrate Christmas remember the people who played a huge role in the story. Yes it ultimately is about Jesus and eventually his sacrifice, which is celebrated on Easter. But remember Mary and Joseph both for the desire to honor the LORD and live their lives as reflection of that love.