Isaiah 53 New International Version (NIV)

53 Who has believed our message
    and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
    and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
    nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by mankind,
    a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
    he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.

Surely he took up our pain
    and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
    stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
    and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
    each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed and afflicted,
    yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
    and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
    so he did not open his mouth.
By oppressiona] and judgment he was taken away.
    Yet who of his generation protested?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
    for the transgression of my people he was punished.b]
He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
    and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
    nor was any deceit in his mouth.

10 Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
    and though the Lord makesc] his life an offering for sin,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
    and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.
11 After he has suffered,
    he will see the light of lifed] and be satisfiede];
by his knowledgef] my righteous servant will justify many,
    and he will bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,g]
    and he will divide the spoils with the strong,h]
because he poured out his life unto death,
    and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many,
    and made intercession for the transgressors.

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united we stand

Beyond all these things put on and wrap yourselves in [unselfish] love, which is the perfect bond of unity [for everything is bound together in agreement when each one seeks the best for others].

 

I wonder how much differently we would approach relationships if we fully embraced the fact that they are more about those around us, than for us…

Have you ever met a person who, after having spent time with them, you felt more encouraged, empowered, or inspired? Their energy is contagious, even if not “energetic,” and their world view and positioning in their faith stirs up your own spirit.

Conversely, what does it feel like to have been in the presence of someone who drained or discouraged you? Have you ever walked away experiencing a feeling of loss or of discouragement?

After either encounter, what do you take with you? To your family? Spouse? Your other friends?

On occasion I will find myself confronted with questioning of certain decisions I have made to bless others; specifically those who may not, on the surface, have anything to offer me in return, or have even brought my life an element of grief or brokenness. While it may be hard for some to understand, it is invaluable to me that I remember that what I sow into my life, the lives of others, my environment and community will bring a harvest – both for myself and those around me.

As Christ-followers, we are designed and called for a specific purpose in this one and only life we live. Some are called to teach, others to heal, many are called to give to the poor, to serve the weak, to minister and grace one another. Regardless of what we are each designed to do, the manner in which we treat those around us, and the relationships we surround ourselves with, directly affect not only our faith walk, but the walk of those around us. To lift up and edify another, or to tear them down, will have a ripple effect that can potentially be echoed for generations.

One of the people I work the hardest to honor is the father of my two older children. We were married for a very short time, but the obligation to co-parent remains. There is no relationship in my kids’ lives more important than the one they have with their father. When I honor he and his position, cover his actions/decisions that I disagree with, and speak life over him, and about him, to our children, it not only brings health and favor over his life, but subsequently to his children as well. How my kids perceive and relate to their father will have deep repercussions in their own life choices, perspectives and peace – for themselves and for their potential children.

For generations to come.

Doing life from the position of full ownership to myself and to those around me is not always easy, and sometimes brings with it a deep loneliness – not everyone shares my beliefs about relationship – and yet I don’t see that a walk with Christ can be done any other way. At least, not very effectively. 

In the end, we truly are all in this life together, and whenever we breathe life into others, we help support them and encourage them in living to their greatest capacity, and visa versa. When we are each empowered to walk in grace, love, support and encouragement, we are a part of caring for ourselves as well. The Word says there is a commanded blessing in unity, and I can think of no other manner in which I would love for us all to live. 

Honor your father and mother; and love your neighbor as yourself” [that is, unselfishly seek the best or higher good for others].
 
Whoever does not welcome you, nor listen to your message [of hope], as you leave that house or city, shake the dust [of it] off your feet [in contempt, breaking all ties].
 
Death and life are in the power of the tongue, And those who love it and indulge it will eat its fruit and bear the consequences of their words.
 
so we, who are many, are [nevertheless just] one body in Christ, and individually [we are] parts one of another [mutually dependent on each other].
 

walk out? or walk in…

A few weeks ago, when the topic of student walk outs was raised, a friend of mine stated how much in support of it he was. Many people also commented, agreeing with his point of view – I, however, countered with the statement that it doesn’t send the message that he thought it does.

As a mother, one of my greatest responsibilities in life is to raise healthy, well adjusted, self-sufficient, honoring, God-led, contributors to society, capable of taking full ownership for their own lives, and being responsible to the people in their own communities (family, school, church, work, city). What I have seen and read is actually being communicated through these walk-outs, both verbally and non-verbally, is not as overwhelmingly positive as some might perceive. Were my daughter to ask me about taking part in the walk out, these are the touch points we would cover:

*You, my child, are the greatest opportunity for you to see the change you long for within your community. Never has a generation had such a wealth of knowledge, resources and influence as our youth today. What can YOU to do encourage safety within your school community? (Invite WATCHDogs to your campus, anti-bullying campaigns, student-led legislature to deal with bullying hands on and to promote community for ALL students, fundraising for classroom lockdown safety kits, etc).

*Students who take a stand to pray for one another come before school or linger after (ie Meet You At the Pole). To disrupt class time and buck against the very system and parameters designed to help you be successful does nothing to create actual formative change. (I guarantee no politician is moved by your stance – you don’t currently pay his bills). It only teaches you that when you want to be heard, the only acceptable manner is to interrupt (and I feel like we pretty much covered that misbehavior when you were about 2).

*You DO have a voice, and my job, our job, as adults, is to teach you how to effectively and successfully use it.

*To merely walk out without a plan of viable action, and to restate over and over that “someone” needs to do something is to communicate that;

A: You are helpless to bring effective change within your community,

B: The government is the only entity capable of solving our community challenges, and

C: You expect broken people to honor legal parameters, but you yourselves are not required to.

*My sweet girl, I want you safe regardless of where you are – home, school, church, the mall – and my job is to do all I can to keep you safe. AND, it is my job to train you up in the way that you should go. YOU will learn how to be watchful, to be responsible with your words and choices, to practice effective self-defense, and to grow up knowing that you are not helpless to the whims and temporary solutions outlined by a few elite politicians.

*YOU, my child, being a follower of Jesus and an advocate for your own communities, will bring about the greatest and most effective social and societal change through your own choices, decisions and ACTIONS in order to better serve your fellow man.

So, go to class, and find others willing to collaborate and make the greatest possible change you can for your community.

In calamity, when others walk out – WE walk in.

Let’s set up a meeting with your principal and see what we can do together to bring about a better safety plan for your school. We can do research to determine the most viable way for our own community to keep everyone safe and learn how we can empower not only ourselves, but those around us, to do the same. I will support, encourage, direct and help implement these steps to the greatest of my ability.

And, when I can’t, you will find the strength within yourself and come to a full realization that children really ARE our future. 

 

the table part 2

Yesterday morning, a friend of mine asked for spiritual counsel with something that she was needing to address that day. A short time later, another friend asked for prayer for a specific battle going on in her household. Both, in my opinion, required prayer. Prayer, AND, action.

For the Lord giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding.
 
To be asked to pray for another person’s heart, needs, health, struggle… is a sacred thing. Even more so is the invitation to share your personal perspective or wisdom. Neither, do I take lightly, because both are an invitation to the table.
 
I think a lot of people mean well – we have experienced something or seen something else work well and we want to share it with those who are walking in a similar vein. The struggle, sometimes, however with Christians is that we haven’t always been invited to share yet. We have seen the power of God in our lives, and/or in the lives of others, and want to share that good news with all who will listen, and yet we can sometimes forget to create trust and relationship first. Subsequently, we can share what we think another person needs, but because we haven’t been really listening (or have been pre-assessing), our words of counsel come off as judgment.
 
Because they are.
 
My son, attend unto my wisdom, and bow thine ear to my understanding:
 
One of the reasons that Jesus’ ministry was so powerful was who he WAS. Yes, it was what he said and the anointing on his life, but those are direct results of him being in constant prayer. Jesus asked the Lord when to speak and when not to, when to heal and when to walk away. Everything he did was the result of listening and being sensitive to the Spirit.
 
That is our mandate as well.
 
If we genuinely love people and authentically want to be the hands and feet of God, we need to be willing to submit to the process and do things His way and in His timing – not ours. The way we lives our lives, how we respond to life’s challenges or to the people around us, are vital to our journey with one another.
 
And to receiving an invitation.
 
 
 

the day before

 

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!”

God’s mercies are new every morning. Every day when we wake, we have a clean slate. Yesterday is done, good or bad, and today is fresh and new. New opportunities to…

choose joy

love the unlovely

forgive

try something new

find and pursue our passion

serve another 

make a difference…

I don’t always choose to see each day as a gift. Oftentimes, my heart has a less-than-positive response to my alarm in the morning – even less so when it is still dark, rainy and the list of to-do’s (or yesterday’s wounds) come rushing in like a flood.

But what if tomorrow you chose differently? I chose differently? What if tomorrow we fully embraced a fresh start and a change to do it just a little better than the day before…