Friday, June 14, 2019

What is Hope?

This quote from Emily Dickenson is lovely:

“Hope is the thing with feathers 
That perches in the soul 
And sings the tune without the words 
And never stops at all.” 
Emily Dickinson

I love that image — that hope is something that lives in the soul and never stops.   Regardless of the situation, regardless of how bad things are, it never stops at all.

In 2009 I wrote this blog post about the ego quality of hope, but I went back to find one paragraph that I think sums up the difference between those who have learned to be “joyful in hope” as Paul instructs us to be.

Last night we had plenty of teenage girl drama. One of my daughters has healthy attachment and it is obvious that she has developed hope somewhere along the way. By the days end, she apologized for her attitude, hugged me, and we both agreed that the next day would be better. My other daughter texted me right before bed, after I texted her that things were going to get better, "No they aren't. Nobody understands me and my life is bad and it is just getting worse and worse.” 

So, where are you on this continuum?  Have you been able to develop the quality of hope in your life?   It takes time and constant redirection of thoughts from one view of the world to another.    When that happens, as Paul points out, we can be joyful in that hope.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Full of energy and enthusiasm?

The verse from Romans 12 that we are looking at today says, “never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.

Never be lacking in zeal.  Yikes.   How can that even be possible?  How many days do you wake up thinking today, “I have zeal?!”

Zeal is defined as "great energy or enthusiasm in pursuit of a cause or an objective.”

I don’t know about you, but my body does not wake up filled with great energy…..   So…. what exactly is Paul talking about?

He makes an interesting connection — he equates zeal with spiritual fervor.   Fervor is defined as “intense and passionate feeling.”

It sounds like Paul is referring more to what is in our hearts than he is how much energy our physical bodies have.  And his suggestion is that in order to have that kind of energy or enthusiasm about a cause, we must have intense and passionate feelings about our spiritual lives.   It’s spiritual passion he talks about, not any other kind.

So, if you have felt yourself lacking in energy and enthusiasm, how is your spiritual life?  Do you have passion and intense feelings about your relationship with Christ?  Do you feel deeply about what He has called you to do in this world?

Praying for spiritual fervor — which leads to consistent zeal that is never lacking — is our task today and every day.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

You can do this!

To cling means to hold on tightly to.   Synonyms include:   clutch · grip · grasp ·  attach oneself to.   

What a great concept!   Paul in Romans 12 teaches us to cling — to attach ourself to — to clutch, grip, and grasp what is good.   What does that look like practically?

Mentally:  We need to attach our thoughts to things that are good.   If we are going to perseverate on anything, then it needs to be on the good.   How easily our minds want to wrap themselves around the negative and worry and obsess about things that are bad, but what would it do to our frame of mind if we were equally obsessed — or even more so — with things that are positive and good?

Emotionally:  What if we saved our strong emotions for what was good and didn’t allow ourselves to get all stuck in feelings about what is evil?  Again, I think Paul is on to something.  That would be a game changer.

Socially:  Clinging to people who are good instead of getting ourselves wrapped up in relationships that cause pain.

and finally, Physically:   I know I’m not the role model for this, but it applies here too.  If our bodies cling to what is good for us:  health foods, water, sleep… the benefits are innumerable.

Who is good but God?  Bottom line  — clinging to what is good means clinging to God.   And we can never lose if we do that!

So how about it?  Let’s commit to spending our day clinging to what is good.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Is it ever good to hate?

When is hatred a good thing? When it is anger towards evil and it leads to action or change.

I have often heard that anger is a motivator…. because it can lead to change.  And hating evil is similar.  When we hate something that is evil enough, we will do something about it.

Think for a few minutes about some things that you hate.   Three things that come to my mind are injustice, apathy in the church, and systems that perpetuate poverty.   As you can probably see, there is a correlation between the way that I live my life personally and the way that I have selected a professional path that allow me time and a platform to attempt to change those things.

What about you?  What evil things do you hate?  What are you doing about them?

Friday, June 07, 2019

Even when you don't feel like it...

Have you ever felt insincere love?    My grandson (who is 4 but has significant speech delays) says “love you grandma.  Popsicle?”   It’s not that he doesn’t love me, but his expression of love seems insincere when he is expressing it right before he asks for something.

Paul is encouraging all of us in the first part of Romans 12:9 to make sure that our love is sincere.   

The word sincere means, "free from pretense or deceit; proceeding from genuine feelings.”

Wow.  That is convincing and challenging because there are many times in life where our genuine feelings are not of love towards a person.   And yet Paul is exhorting us with the words love MUST be sincere.

C.S. Lewis once said something very profound.  He shares his solution to this issue:

“Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him.”

That’s my challenge for all of us today.   If you are struggling with not having loving feelings about someone, then behave as if you do and the feelings will follow.

One of the ways to do that is to carry people to Jesus who loves them perfectly.   Just heard this song for the first time today:

(P.S.  Did you know that I was raising money for Patrick Henry Family Services -- going to the gym 100 times for at least 20 minutes to raise money for our great programs.   Check it out here  

Wednesday, June 05, 2019

We're All Different (and that's OK)

One of the things that I geek out on is personality assessments.  I am fascinated about how we are all wired differently and how God has gifted us in different ways.   I am particularly grateful for that every night when I come home and find my husband whistling in the kitchen excited about the privilege he has to cook for his family.  If that was my task I would be crabby every.   single.   day.   

I am also grateful at work that there are people who balance me out and can help me be better.  When I was younger people who were deliberate and methodical and perfectionistic used to drive me up a tree until I realized that without them my fast-paced (what my husband would call careless and reckless) quick decisions and "pushing through quickly" style leads me right off a cliff.

The trick is not that we each want to be like someone else, but that we focus on the gifts God has given us and choose to be the best we can at who God called us to be.  Paul says it in Romans 12:

We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your[a] faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach;  if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.

So what is your gift?  Are you using it?   Are you doing so diligently and cheerfully?  I hope so, because living that way produces so much fulfillment and joy!

Monday, June 03, 2019

What Would it Look Like?

What would it look like if the church really did work like a body?  What if each of us knew our role and did it to the best of our ability?  What if we realized that each of us belonged to the rest of us.  Wouldn’t that be amazing?

In Romans 12 Paul says, "For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others."

Yesterday Bart and one of our sons and I worshipped at one of the mega churches in the area.  It couldn’t have been more different than the church we just pastored.  There was no Lord’s prayer, no Gloria Patri, no Apostle’s Creed, no doxology and there wasn’t a single hymn, and the sermon was 50 minutes instead of 15.   There were even (Gasp!) drums!   It was very different than what we have been accustomed to.  There were parts of it that I liked and parts of it that I didn’t like, but …. that’s not the point!  Interestingly, the point is not any of the things I just mentioned when it comes to the church….it’s not about what we like or don’t like.  

Church is about the people, the worship, and the service.   Have to admit we missed some folks yesterday (some of them a LOT)  as we sat in a crowd of strangers.  But style isn’t the issue.  The questions to ask are not about music or preaching but are we worshipping the same God and how does each church as a member of Christ’s body, serve the broken and hurting of the world. 

Over the next month until Bart starts pastoring his new church (June 30th) we will be attending some different churches.  I hope that my focus in each of them, regardless of style, can be on worship and service.  

(P.S.  Did you know that I was raising money for Patrick Henry Family Services -- going to the gym 100 times for at least 20 minutes to raise money for our great programs.   Check it out here