Friday, June 23, 2017

A Double Funeral

I find it quite humorous the way that we sum up a person by one idea, thought, or word.  We tend to put others in a corner and define them by one trait that is most significant.
If I were to ask you about the biblical character Job you might say "he was the one who remained faithful to God no matter what.  He had faith even when God did all kinds of horrible things to him. What a great man!"
But if you read the book of Job you will see that he was really a whiny butt.  Now, I was going to title this post "Job was a whiny butt" but I figured that you would all find that either immature or offensive.  But seriously7, chapters of the book are basically him whining.  This is from chapter 17 in the Message.

If all I have to look forward to is a home in the graveyard,if my only hope for comfort is a well-built coffin, If a family reunion means going six feet under,and the only family that shows up is worms,Do you call that hope?Who on earth could find any hope in that?No. If hope and I are to be buried together,I suppose you'll all come to the double funeral!"
There are so many blog posts that I could write about the book of Job and I might write several, but this is the one I want you to learn from today.

People don't have to be "either-or."  They aren't good or bad, smart or stupid, kind or mean, etc.   Human beings are complex and we can be "both-and."   We can be both patient at work and impatient at home, polite to strangers and rude among friends, talkative at a party but quiet in meetings.   And sometimes we can be different in one day."

So that is how Job, the whiny butt, can also be the guy who states loudly,
"I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth." (Job 19:25)
David was the guy who killed a dude after sleeping with his wife AND was a man after God's own heart.  Abraham was the man who was known for his faith AND slept with his servant to get a son faster than God planned.

And maybe the people around you have visible stuff that put them in the category of "bad" but actually are people that God sees as good.

A thought worth pondering.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

It's All About Me....

If you are currently living with teenagers or young adults, you know that they kind of have tunnel vision and they only see the world as it applies to them.   Their little world is all that really matters.

Even us "older adults" can get into the pattern of believing "it's all about me" and forgetting the rest of the picture.

If there was anyone who could have made everything about her it is Esther.  When she is first introduced in Esther 2 she is described this way:  "The girl had a good figure and a beautiful face." When it comes to what society tells us, those things alone would give her the right to build a world that was all about her.

But if you move forward a couple chapters, you will see that she had a choice to make.   She could risk her life for her family or her people, or she could remain silent.  She was told:
"If you persist in staying silent at a time like this, help and deliverance will arrive for the Jews from someplace else; but you and your family will be wiped out. Who knows? Maybe you were made queen for just such a time as this."
Esther had a choice to make.   She had to decide whether or not the people around her and the cause to which she was committed were more important than she herself.   If you know the story, you know that she responded,
 If you will do this, I’ll go to the king, even though it’s forbidden. If I die, I die. (or, in the King James Version, if I perish, I perish."
Do you have anything in your life that is important enough for you to risk your life?  Have you been able to put yourself behind your family, your friends, or the cause to which you were created when it comes to setting your priorities?

I pray daily for the courage to have the attitude of Esther and to remember that it's not all about me.  In fact, it's WAY beyond me.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Not Feeling So Great About Yourself?

Shame.  Guilt.  Regret.  Rejection.  Self-Hatred.  Dirty.  All words that are part of us at one point in time in our lives.   Sometimes we get stuck in a place where we don't see our own value.

Or maybe those are not words that are a part of you.  Maybe you have overcome whatever you have in your past that caused those feelings.  Or possibly, you are young enough, or fortunate enough, to have had a life that to this point has been free of things that cause those emotions.

One of the joys of being a Christian is knowing that those feelings do not have to enslave us .... that there is grace, and mercy and forgiveness that awaits us at every turn.   And whether or not these are things you struggle with personally, we all know people who are caught in that shame, blame, guilt, regret cycle who need the hope that we have.

I encourage you today to do two things as you listen to this powerful song:  Be reminded of God's grace for YOU and then be reminded that we have the privilege of sharing that grace with others who might be feeling this way.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

What If......

How does it make you feel when someone you have only meant once remembers your name?  Sometimes it surprises me, sometimes I wonder why they remember, but in almost every situation it makes me feel good.   I like it when someone knows my name.

In listening through the old testament over the past few months I have been surprised at the number of chapters that have simply been a list of the names of people.  So and so was the father of so and so who was the father of so and so.... the begats of the King James Version.  I get weary of them and I think, "Who cares?  Can't this part be over with?  Why is it even in the Bible?"

But yesterday it occurred to me.   What if God had that all included because He wanted us to know that he cared about EACH of those people.  That all of those names that are hard to pronounce in Scripture represented a life .... a person .... a contribution ... and that God knew each name, each person, and that each life had value.

If that is true of Azariah, Pashhur, Amariah, Malkijah, Hattush, Shebaniah, Malluk, Harim, Meremoth, Ginnethon, Baruch, Meshullam, Abijah, Mijamin, Maaziah and Bilgai (some of the many men in Nehemiah who signed an oath agreeing to follow God) then it is true of me.  Of you.  Of each of us.

God knows your name.  He SEES you as a person, as a meaningful life, as a person who can and will make a difference.

Friday, June 16, 2017


Right now I'm overlooking the Marina in Hampton, Virginia.   Bart is at Annual Conference and I'm working from the hotel room.   It's amazing how much work a person can get done when they are not in the office. But you knew that.

We had a great time last night celebrating our anniversary at Mango Mangeaux ...  a pretty cool little seafood restaurant here in Hampton with complete orange decor and excellent food.  Their Mango Mangeaux Preserves were actually featured on "Shark Tank" if that means anything to you.

Like every other married couple in the world, our anniversary reminds me of our wedding when a quartet of four of our favorite people sang this song (a special arrangement of it that was written by a friend of ours).

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. 

O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love; For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life. 
The irony of it all is how much this has been what is required to make it through the last 21 years of parenting kids with a  history of trauma.... to love where there is hatred, to believe when it seems like it's impossible to believe, to find hope in the midst of the worst kinds of despair, and to look for the joy every day when life is filled with sadness.

We had no idea when we stood there, committing ourselves to each other, that our journey was going to require that God answer that prayer and teach us to comfort, rather than to seek to be comforted, to work hard to understand and make that a priority above being understood, and to reaching out, offering love to those who had no ability to love us back.

Each year when our anniversary comes up, I am reminded of the song and I pray the prayer one more time, asking that God do it for us for another year.   And here we are, still standing, 21 years, 12 children, two baby daddies, two baby mamas, a boyfriend, a girlfriend, a daughter-in-law and seven grandchildren later.

If we've made it this far, it looks like God has answered that prayer that was sung all those years ago.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Who does Life with You?

Do you enjoy mingling?   Are meetings where people stand around and make small talk with a drink or little appetizers in their hands fun for you?   I absolutely abhor them.   Part of it is probably that I am in in pain when I stand, but the other part is that I really don't do shallow.  I don't enjoy conversations where there is no depth and I always try to steer conversations into something more meaningful.

Knowing that you might not be surprised that the thing that matters most to me are the relationships that go deep....  the ones where people "do life" with me and where no conversations are shallow.   I would love to go back and tell you about so many of those friendships that I have had over the years, but I would leave someone out (or take more of your time than you are willing to give me).    I'm sure you have a list too.  People who have allowed you to know them and to whom you have been willing to be known.   For some people it's a very short list ... maybe a list of one.  I can think of least one person that stands out in every chapter of my life who has been "my person" for that season (as our friend Meredith often said of Christina on Grey's Anatomy).

(Excuse the photo above…. I sarcastically post it because it really isn’t me to have bouquets all over my dress, and it certainly isn’t like Bart to take my hand and gaze down at me lovingly.  Just sayin.)

However, today is the day that I celebrate "my person" over the last 21 years.   Today is our anniversary and Bart and I have sure packed a lot into these years.   There is nobody else who I can imagining doing life with over hills and valleys of pastoring and parenting that we have encountered in our marriage.  He is a patient and supportive husband (I could not have done any of the things I have done the last two decades without his encouragement).   He is also an amazing father and the best grandpa a kid could ever want.   I am so very blessed that HE is the one I get to hear preach every Sunday, regardless of where I move because he is so gifted.  Having him walk with me is by far the second greatest gift I have ever been given.

Which leads me to the ultimate blessing of my life ... the fact that I have had Jesus to "do life with me." Above and beyond all others -- He is "My person."  He knows me fully and I have spent my life yearning to know Him as fully as I can.   He has walked with me from the moment of my birth and nowhere I have ever moved or been has been a place He wouldn't go with me.   He has never once left me to do life by myself.

So on what I have called #ThankfulThursday I give thanks for all those who have walked with me, done life with me, known me and been known.  They are what has added the color to my life.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

What's Your Part?

In my observation of humanity, most people who have grown up in healthy homes and have not experienced a great deal of trauma, are interested in doing their part to make the world a better place.  Sure, there are things that throw people off track.... crisis, addiction, anxiety and depression, etc.... but when human beings are in a healthy place, they usually want to give back and do their part.  The challenge is in knowing exactly what that part is.

How much do you know about the book of Nehemiah?  I have loved it since I was a teenager because it's about a dude that got a whole bunch of people together to take on a huge project.  A few people, I don't know if we would call them his friends, tried their best to discourage him, but he got it done.

Even before my teen years, doing just that has been a part of my personality and some of my favorite moments in life have been when a team I led pulled off something amazing.   I orchestrated a back yard theatre sometime before I was ten where we had a bedspread over the clothesline and all of the children came to my yard where I directed them and my little brothers in several theatrical performances.   My favorite was when I somehow convinced my little brother Nathan to be Goldilocks.  All of the parents in the neighborhood came to every performance.  We had chairs set up, we served snacks.  It was awesome.

Move ahead about 20 years and I got it in my head that the student body at then Bartlesville Wesleyan College could raise $5,000 in six weeks to help paint and furnish a missionary's home in Mexico.  The college president, who is my lifetime mentor and friend, knowing exactly how to mentor me, told me there was NO WAY we could raise $5,000.   Instead we raised over 8,000 and those raising the highest amount took a missions trip down to do the painting ourselves.  I still remember vividly the day we presented the check to the missionaries in chapel.   One of my favorite memories.

Jump ahead another 20 years and there was a huge need for foster parents in Minneapolis, but my Bethany budget wouldn't allow any additional funds to start a foster care program.  So my team did it anyway, and now the program flourishes with me miles away.

So you see why I love Nehemiah.   Yesterday I was listening to it again, and some very simple verses from Chapter Three, that most people would never base a devotional or a sermon on, stuck out to me.

Malkijah son of Harim and Hasshub son of Pahath-Moab rebuilt another section that included the Tower of Furnaces. Working next to him was Shallum son of Hallohesh, mayor of the other half-district of Jerusalem, along with his daughters.The Valley Gate was rebuilt by Hanun and villagers of Zanoah; they repaired it, hung its doors, and installed its bolts and bars. They went on to repair 1,500 feet of the wall, as far as the Dung Gate.The Dung Gate itself was rebuilt by Malkijah son of Recab, the mayor of the district of Beth Hakkerem; he repaired it, hung its doors, and installed its bolts and bars.
You're probably thinking that the fact that it was called the Dung Gate stuck out to be, but it wasn't that.   What struck me was that each person knew their part.   It doesn't stop there.... in fact this description goes for 33 full verses and is the entirety of chapter three.

It would be so cool if God simply met us at the beginning of our lives and said, "You're part in life is to rebuild the Dung Gate.   That's your job."

Instead, He says to us, "You have a  part to play.  In fact, you have several parts to play in changing this world and making it a better place.   As your life unfolds, what I want you to do will unfold.  Just take one step at a time.

It is our job to show up, take the next step, and find out what our part is and where our place is in this world.  .   And then, when we finish that part, we look for the next part, the next place.  It's the way God intended us for live and it's an amazing adventure.  This song has been a favorite since it came out.  Doesn't he look young!  Yikes, I guess we both were back then.