a place at the table

 

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a guide to judgment

Matthew 10:34-36

 “Don’t imagine that I came to bring peace to the earth! No, rather, a sword. I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—36 a man’s worst enemies will be right in his own home!” – Jesus

 

I have noticed an interesting phenomenon as a Christian in today’s culture, and I wonder if perhaps a few of you can relate? The other day I was having a disagreement with someone, and when I commented on the irony with which they were communicating, the response was, “Don’t judge me!” I was instantly perplexed, and to be honest chuckled a bit (inside!), as I was once again confronted by this funny little word, judgment.

Now, to enter into the depths of what Jesus meant when he said not to judge, I invite you to do a little further reading here – it is a pretty straightforward explanation of a scripture that is overused and often misquoted. Since it has already been so eloquently explained, I thought I would just share a few common sense points of reference as to what I am talking about. Unfortunately, I have extensive experience with having to stop, process, and discern if what I really said was judgment or not…(insert grin).

*If I believe that abortion is wrong, it does not make me judgmental, it means I have a position on the morality of it. Now, if I were to find my friends who have actually had abortions, to be lesser humans than myself, or unworthy of love or of my relationship, THAT would be judgmental. 

*Let’s say you are dialoging with me in a way that I find inappropriate, manipulative or abusive and I say, “Hey, I really don’t like the way you are talking to me right now,” I would not be judging you. Rather, I would be establishing a clear boundary as to how I feel comfortable communicating.

*Perhaps we disagree on how we like to spend a Saturday night. You want to go to the bar, and I really don’t enjoy being around large crowds of people, especially when many of them are intoxicated. My choice doesn’t make me anymore judgmental than you are for not feeling comfortable coming to my church on a Sunday morning. That, my friends, is called a matter of personal preference. 

 (Deep sigh).

I find it interesting that in many circles it is entirely appropriate, even encouraged, for people to have strong opinions. That is, unless you are a Christian. While I am not entirely certain as to how other people justify it, there is certainly a challenge at times in being wholly authentic around those who may not share a similar faith for fear of offending someone. The older I get the more baffled I am by the hypocrisy of those outside of the church, operating quite neatly under the guise of being “free thinking”, while those who choose to operate through the filter designated by the God they serve, are seen as judgmental. 

My favorite dichotomy is that when I choose to live life in a manner that follows along with my belief system; I am deemed judgmental, and yet when I make a mistake, or temper by beliefs, I am deemed a hypocrite. 

I wonder what it would be like if we all allowed one another to operate in the fullness of who they feel they are designed and called to be – if differences weren’t seen as divisions, and authenticity was celebrated. I can tell you with all honestly that it simply is not the current reality for many of us who choose a life following Christ.

And yet, I wouldn’t have it any other way…

Galatians 6:9 

And let us not get tired of doing what is right, for after a while we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t get discouraged and give up.

 

 

simple saturday (confession)

My usual MO for a Saturday is a video or a quick post, but today I wanted to take the time to be a little more vulnerable. 

In one of my many other lives, I am a growth coach. For me, there is something so absolutely moving and inspiring in helping another person discover their intrinsic value, identify goals, encourage personal growth, break free from past hurts, learn to see the world through a healthier lens… 

But today, I have to confess, I have absolutely failed. I failed myself.

As I know I have mentioned, I am a recovering co-dependent. As much as I would love to tell you that I have moved past all such tendencies, it really is a process, and one through which I am not confident we ever fully complete. Perhaps some are better students than myself, or perhaps my DNA gets in the way, but for whatever reason, the decision to live my most authentic life does not always (hardly ever!) come naturally.

I have to choose daily, to be intentional about my healing.

When my older two kids were younger, they used to argue quite a bit. Being a mere year-plus-a-few-months apart, they could be the best of friends and the worst of enemies at any given time. Bipolar Seattle weather had nothing on these two. More often than not, however, it was my son who would commit the greatest offense, usually in the form of inappropriate sibling contact. It was often he who experienced the greater of the consequences.

Then, I saw the light.

One day I caught her – my precious, sweet, quiet daughter – taunting her brother. I watched for quite some time as she violated his boundaries over an over again. Like poking the bear, she pulled out all the stops, clearly waiting for that victorious moment when he would lose his cool and lash out in desperation. I could feel my anger rising as I realized the intentionality of her assault on his senses. All subsequent conversations looked very different after that day, with lots of conversation about honor, boundaries and respect.

For the past couple of months I have engaged in a similar situation, not because it’s fun, but because it’s familiar. It plays on my emotions, and I spend a lot of energy trying to offer kindness and patience in response to accusation. I need to be a good Christian, right?? Longsuffering, and laying myself down and all that godly stuff… Honoring what I tell my kids; that “relationship is more important than being right.” And yet, once again, I fail and throw down the snark. Not a lot, just enough to feel better, just enough to let the other person win, and wham!

I am washed in guilt at my failure, and proving “true” what was being said about me all along… 

Poking the bear.

It is really easy to know the right things to do, but sometimes it is an entirely different thing to follow through. I want to be honest with you all and confess I rarely have it all together, and that I fall more often than not. And, I want to encourage each and every one of you that just because we fall, doesn’t mean we don’t get to try again. All those “ings” are a process…healing…forgiving…mending…learning…recovering…

Here is the lesson. My thoughts, choices and emotions have been filtered of late, through my perception of how they would be received by this other person. I have made a human the lord over my life, instead of keeping the Lord in his rightful position in my heart. For the comfort of familiarity, I exchanged my right as a Daughter of the King and stepped outside of who I have been created to be. 

Zechariah 9:12 Living Bible (TLB)

Come to the place of safety, all you prisoners, for there is yet hope! I promise right now, I will repay you two mercies for each of your woes! 

We don’t have to strive – the Lord our God fights on our behalf. Those things which are broken, He promises to redeem. The weaknesses we carry in our innermost parts, He sees. There is nothing that we cannot lay down on the altar that He will not use to reveal His power in our lives. Regardless of the battle or position of lack you are in, or choose to go back to, there is hope. Repent, turn away from the things that damage you, let God take them from you. If you have gone back to the old ways, it’s not too late to turn again and run towards the hope that is before you. 

This truth, I confess to you, my friend.

the rebellion

Ezekiel 5:7 The Message (MSG)

“Therefore this is what God, the Master, says: You’ve been more headstrong and willful than any of the nations around you, refusing my guidance, ignoring my directions. You’ve sunk to the gutter level of those around you.”

I don’t always know what I want to write about every day, so oftentimes I will pray and ask God what to write about and He will bring to mind something that I have recently pondering or experiencing. Other days, like today, I will ask for a scripture. Sometimes it doesn’t work, to be honest, and I will read something that makes no sense to me at all. Today, however, Ezekiel 5:7 came to mind and it absolutely fit a situation that just happened earlier today with my 12-year-old. 

Driving home from school this afternoon, I was speaking with her about choosing to shift her perspective with regards to a particular issue, and my child, who not so long ago found my words encouraging, now seems to find my opinions less than savory, and slightly irrelevant in her newly discovered middle school brilliance. 

Delightful.

One of the most challenging parts of the parent-child relationship, in my experience anyway, is the settling of who is actually in charge. From the moment that our little people realize that they are unique individuals, independent from us, the battle is on as to who will “win” the in’s and out’s of daily life. Two and three year olds tantrum, our 7 and 8 year olds argue every possible point of contention, and teens…well, teens have the greatest struggle of all as they begin to perceive the weight of having to develop into self-reliant adults who will very shortly be required to be self sufficient. Meanwhile, their bodies are going through the same developmental stage as those delightful three year olds, so they vacillate between the desired freedom before them, while still pushing boundaries in order to reaffirm that their parents are still there to catch them when they fall. 

Even as adults, we often have a more rebellious bent when it comes to what we think is best for our lives, very much like our children. And yet, as we know, our wisdom trumps theirs. Likewise, the God who designed us has a unique perspective as to what each of us needs at any given time. He sees our lives laid out before us, sees the pitfalls, knows which trials will shape us, is aware of our full potential, and promises to bring good out of ALL things for those of us who love Him.

What is it within us, then, that strives to get our own way??

To be honest, I think part of our soul recognizes we are designed in His image, and just like Adam and Eve in the garden, we really just want to be in charge; despite any potential consequence. Similar to my 12-year-old, there is something within us which banks on the knowledge that God will have our back.

In spite of our disobedience.

I often tell my kids that consequences only get bigger the older we get, and it is my job to teach them to trust my leadership so that in their adulthood, they will trust God’s. Regardless of how you were raised, it is still possible to learn to be obedient, to listen to wise counsel, to walk in His path, and reap the benefit of living within His loving boundaries, grace and plan for your unique life.

God has called you to bigger things than where you are, my friend. Psalm 139 in the bible tells us that we are each fearfully and wonderfully made. We were known by Him before we were even conceived. With a start like that, you can walk in confidence that where you are is not where you will stay! Part of the journey, though, is knowing who to follow, and I can think of no one better to lead than the One who created me. 

Will you set aside your pride and follow His gentle leading? I promise where you are headed is worth it.

 

 

spread the love

It can be uncomfortable being a Christian in American society today. Sins of our fathers, and the shifting of cultural norms, have created a perfect storm of hate for anything that has to do with Jesus. What was always meant to be a message of hope and love has often been delivered as judgement and hate, and many churches have moved to an extreme message of grace, where there is no more need for living a biblical lifestyle, to throwing in the towel altogether. Reasonable, loving and mercy-filled Christ-followers seem to be in the minority, and their voices are often drowned out by the competing versions of “the church.”

And yet in today’s world, where fear and doubt reign supreme and many marinate their souls in polarizing rhetoric, there is no greater time than now for the purity and soothing truth of God’s love in our lives.

Sometimes, it can be hard to discern the where and when to share our faith – the tension between maintaining relationship and being true to our biblical mandate to share the good news is not always easy to navigate. 

Ezekiel 2 The Message (MSG)

It said, “Son of man, stand up. I have something to say to you.”

The moment I heard the voice, the Spirit entered me and put me on my feet. As he spoke to me, I listened.

He said, “Son of man, I’m sending you to the family of Israel, a rebellious nation if there ever was one. They and their ancestors have fomented rebellion right up to the present. They’re a hard case, these people to whom I’m sending you—hardened in their sin. Tell them, ‘This is the Message of God, the Master.’ They are a defiant bunch. Whether or not they listen, at least they’ll know that a prophet’s been here. But don’t be afraid of them, son of man, and don’t be afraid of anything they say. Don’t be afraid when living among them is like stepping on thorns or finding scorpions in your bed. Don’t be afraid of their mean words or their hard looks. They’re a bunch of rebels. Your job is to speak to them. Whether they listen is not your concern. They’re hardened rebels.

“Only take care, son of man, that you don’t rebel like these rebels. Open your mouth and eat what I give you.”

When I looked he had his hand stretched out to me, and in the hand a book, a scroll. He unrolled the scroll. On both sides, front and back, were written lamentations and mourning and doom.

While we are to share (show, speak, create, nurture) the good news of the saving love of Jesus Christ, it is important to remember that our job is to share – to plant. It is God’s job to water. And, when (if), we are asked to introduce others to Him, we then get to take part in the harvest. God does all the hard work – we are only called to sow and reap. 

Today, plant a seed of love, follow it up with prayer, and be a good steward of what you have been given. Recognize where and when you have been placed where you are, and embrace the fact that you are in the right place a the right time. We should always be ready for God to open doors for conversation, and remembering that the end result is up to Him, gives us the boldness to love one another better than perhaps we ever have before. 

It’s time to spread the love.

covered/every morning

Lamentations 3:22-24 – 

Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“Therefore I hope in Him!”

In Genesis 2:25, the bible tells us that Adam and Eve were naked and not ashamed. When I ponder what I would be like to walk around naked in my daily life (not to mention just in my bathroom!), it is hard to imagine, really. In Genesis 3:7, they realize their state and make fig leaves coverings, and by Genesis 3:11 God asks them who had told them they were naked. 

Why so much time spent on this clothing issue??

Close your eyes and think on that one thing (or two or three…) that you would never want the world to know. Stir up that mistake, sin, or dark thought that would crush your grandmother’s heart. 

That crushes yours.

Recognition of the darkness within us makes us feel naked. Exposed. God’s original intention for His people, however, was to experience the freedom of not having to hide anything – of walking in the movement of grace, and capacity to embrace fully, their greatest potential; celebrating every day within His presence.

Sin robs us of this liberty.

His goal has always been, and always will be, full relationship with us. When we hide ourselves from Him, it burdens His heart. So, like a heavy scarlet robe, God laid the blood of His son Jesus across our deficiencies to cover us, restoring our vulnerability and purity before Him once and for all.

[ Free from Indwelling Sin ] There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.
 
Won’t you let Him cover you today?

guns and the good news

In the wake of the shooting in Florida yesterday, we are once again engulfed in the seemingly endless gun control debate. Somewhat reminiscent of my college days, where the never ending struggle was the issue of nature vs nurture, it seems there is lots of discussion as to the why, but rarely any agreement on a viable answer as to the how.

My personal lifestyle philosophy is personal accountability, and I honestly don’t believe you can ever make enough rules to create the perfect society. Collectively, WE, are society.

We, as adults, who continue to stir up strife, focus on the problems rather than proactively pursuing solutions, and funk up our cultural atmosphere like a self-indulgent family member who stirs up strife with their never-ending toxicity. Meanwhile, there seems to be no understanding of the tone we continue to set for a younger generation, not yet even biologically mature enough to process truth and long-term consequence through the self-serving haze. Our youth are growing up with more challenges than any generation up to this point; but with fewer tools and absolutely no solid foundation on which to stand.

We take away personal responsibility and declare there is no longer value in operating by a moral compass because we all want to live out our “own truth,” then are shocked when emotionally or psychologically broken humans with no other recourse for their pain, anger or disillusionment, choose their “own truth.” 

At some point, there have to be a least SOME foundational pieces we can agree on. Sadly, we continue shouting at one another, refusing to listen, while our kids flail in the wake of our pride and ideologies.

Our kids and communities need action, not ideologies. 

There are so many practical things we can do within our communities to proactively help keep our schools and common areas safer –

promote/support levies that fund mental health professionals and professional security officers in schools; head up a fundraiser to put security systems into place; fund, volunteer with, and promote groups like WatchDOGS in your local schools. You do not have to have a student to volunteer your time to our future – serve! Use your own voice to ensure that the atmosphere you are personally creating values honor, respect for others and personal responsibility. And, expect it from others.

We didn’t get here overnight and we won’t get out that way, either. The truth is that evil will always find a way. It is completely illogical to believe that stricter laws will change any of this – it’s just one more means through which we as a society promote division. Truly, the best defense is a good offense.

As Christ-followers, we are mandated not to only pray for our leaders, but to put action to our faith. To merely sit back and point fingers at those in power, and neglect shouldering the responsibility of the mantle placed upon each one of us, is to neglect the very essence of our purpose – to be His hands and feet. 

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, Because the Lord has anointed Me To preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to those who are bound”
Today, pray about what He has called YOU to do – what is your part to play in those things which stir in your heart. Take your passion, fear, anger and sense of injustice and use it to seek out how you can make a difference. Faith without works is dead…

peace above all

I am feeling especially bold lately, and it is honestly a little scary. Growing up, my main goal in life was to avoid the wrath of my dad – his job was challenging and he often drank enough to stray from wise choices of words and actions. As an adult, it still makes me respond quite viscerally when there is any dissention or disagreement of any kind. 

In my mind, peace is paramount.

But what I am finding is that peace is not always an avoidance of disagreement or negativity, but is sometimes a mandate to actively and effectively remove that which brings chaos, evil or distraction.

To bring peace means to battle for love.

In your space today, where is there chaos? Where do you lack peace? Wisdom? What can you discard, walk away from, or remove in order to restore order and allow God’s Word to reign above the daily routine and challenges of life?

There are 21 references to peace in the book of Leviticus. For those of you unfamiliar; Leviticus is essentially God’s play book for His people. The book of rules. The book nobody could live up to.

So God sent Jesus – the bible tells us that Jesus came to fulfill the law – He was the final sacrifice because we as humans just couldn’t get it right.  So much of how the ancient Jews lived in their daily lives, was to the end of finding peace with Him. They made sacrifices, followed rules, repented daily, memorized scriptures…. But God sent His son, JESUS, who was the final sacrifice for us. And, it opened up access to all people to come to a saving knowledge of God.  Essentially, all that is left now is to repent of our old life, give ourselves over to Him, His plan for us, His ways, and trust that we are in the hands of a loving and gracious Father whose goal is for life in Him.

Him = peace (in all things).

John 3:16 – “This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him.”

Matthew 10:34-47 – “Don’t think I’ve come to make life cozy. I’ve come to cut—make a sharp knife-cut between son and father, daughter and mother, bride and mother-in-law—cut through these cozy domestic arrangements and free you for God. Well-meaning family members can be your worst enemies. If you prefer father or mother over me, you don’t deserve me. If you prefer son or daughter over me, you don’t deserve me.
 

C’mon, somebody, THAT is a good word!! May you find the strength, fortitude, courage, boldness and faith to actively move in your own personal space and allow His supreme peace in!!

Shalom.

 

challenged

This is one of my favorite speakers – I heard him years ago and it’s been a while since I have heard him speak. The video is pretty intense, but super direct. And, it challenged me deeply. Don’t be dissuaded by the title – I too, use shock to get people to read my stuff.  Sometimes, shock and awe is all that gets people’s attention these days.

And yes, this week I am diving into Revelation and all the red letters in my bible…

 

my way…

This is from a while back, but the message is really timely. No matter what is going on around you, God still wants to, and will position you, in order to do His work. Never feel as though He isn’t moving – be bold!