Thursday, January 18, 2018

I will go

Those three words were spoken by Rebekah in Genesis 24.  You know the story.  Or maybe you don't so here it is.

Abraham wanted a wife for his son Isaac, so he sent his servant back to his home country to find this wife.  The servant promised that he would do that but was a bit worried that he wouldn't be able to find a woman willing to drop everything and go to another land with people she did not know.  So the servant prayed for God's guidance.

You can read the details in Genesis 24, but the bottom line is that Rebekah showed up at the well and did exactly what the servant prayed that the right woman would do.  At this point he KNEW that Rebekah was the one.  So he went back and told the whole story of this miraculous selection to Rebekah's family.

The family was surprised and reluctant, but willing to let her go if there was time to say goodbye.  They asked for ten days but the servant begged them not to make him or Abraham wait that long.  So they decided to ask the girl.  I'm sure they assumed she would be too afraid and would want to stay as long as possible.  Instead she simply said, "I will go."

And then she did.  I don't know what Rebekah was thinking, but it's my guess that she had faith in God and that she believed the servant's story.  She recognized that for some reason she had been chosen by God specifically to do something significant.   She was to marry someone that eventually would become the Isaac in the phrase, "the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob."

I don't know what God is asking you to do today.  At this point maybe you don't either.   But the true life of adventure begins with the decision to say nothing more than "I will go" wherever that takes you.

Allow me a few minutes to reminisce about the times I have said that phrase.   I knew for a long time as a teenager that God wanted me to go to Bartlesville Wesleyan College.  That resulted in eight wonderful years, four as a student, and four as an employee, surrounded by some of the best people you will ever meet who are still my friends today.

After a huge disappointment in not receiving a job I applied for at Houghton College, I said "I will go" and headed to South Dakota, a place where I learned for the first time, having grown up in sunny Colorado where snow actually melts, that you can see October's snow in April... because it's the very bottom layer.   However, in Brookings again I had relationships and grew and learned so much.   Those were three of the most formative years of my life and I never wondered why God wanted me there.

After finishing my years as Dean of Students in Bartlesville, I heard God clearly say "I want you in Mexico."  That was one of the most clear messages I've received in my life.   The two years I was there changed my world view, connected me with incredible people, and helped me to redefine myself.

Then it was off to Minnesota to hang out with a guy who said, "I could always use another friend in Minnesota" when I believed God was telling me he was the one I should marry.   It took him a while, but he came around and nearly 22 years ago I signed up to be a clergy spouse in an itinerant appointment system.   That means that I signed up for a lifetime of "I will go" moments that took us to four different churches/cities in Minnesota.  I have never regretted that decision.

And then there was the out nowhere question two years ago that turned our lives upside down:  "Will you go to Virginia?"   And here we are.

However, in between all of those moments there were times when I wanted to go and God said no.  Starting when I was 15 and happening periodically over the years there were "awesome opportunities" that I wanted to pursue.  But I knew I didn't want to go without God's blessing.   He closed doors and shook sense into me in multiple ways to protect me from what was obviously not the best He had for me.

I don't know what the rest of my life holds, and neither do you.   But it is my conviction that if we live our lives simply saying, "I will go where You lead me" that life is an amazing adventure.

Will you go?

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Who's at the Table?

Ever since I listened to the song "Come to the Table" yesterday, I've been asking myself the question, "Who is at the table?"  The song is a Sidewalk Prophets song that offers an invitation:

He said come to the table
Come join the sinners who have been redeemed
Take your place beside the Savior
Sit down and be set free.
Come to the table.
As I asked myself that question -- who is at Jesus' table -- I wanted to look around that table I created in my head and see my friends.  I wanted to see people that I love who agree with me, who are kind to me.   I honestly secretly wished that His table did not include certain kinds of people or even some individuals.   But then I realized that that is a broad category:  "The sinners who have been redeemed."   It just might be that the table I'm being invited to is different than the one I might prefer it to be.

So I asked myself some questions that I encourage you to ask yourself.   What if, when you come to the table of Jesus, these are the people you find there:
  • People who are from a country whose politics you don't agree with;
  • People of a different race;
  • Those of a different theological persuasion;
  • Those with a different sexual orientation.

Maybe those broad categories are easier than these:
  • Someone you feel has betrayed you;
  • Someone who has hurt you;
  • Someone you are in conflict with right now.

Still want to join Jesus at His table?

The reason that I know that some of those above will very well be there is because of the times in Scripture when Jesus talks about his table.   The parable of the great feast in Matthew 22 tells us that those who were invited did not come so those least likely to be included were the ones that ended up at the table.   In Matthew 6 we learn that Jesus was having dinner with the "tax collectors and the sinners."  There are countless examples of Jesus hanging out with those that everyone else decided weren't good enough, were "too far gone" or were from a culture or a lifestyle that everyone else avoided.

The most powerful example, however, of what Jesus did was very personal.  His Last Supper he sat and ate with the man who would betray Him and the one who would deny Him.    He KNEW this before he invited them to dinner.   He sat with them and remained loving.  And, to top it all off, He washed their feet.   The fact that Jesus washed Judas' feet is one of the post powerful statements of who Jesus is that we can find anywhere.

The table of Christ is a place where we come, not just because He is there, but because He wants us to sit on even ground with all of those He has redeemed.   He wants us to live in community with them in whatever ways we can.   He wants us to love them as He loved them .... even if it means loving those who betray us, deny us, even hate us.   Because Jesus Himself did that very thing the night before His death ... and He continues to do that every day.

So let me share with you this song and as you think about it, picture who you need to forgive or show compassion to in order to enjoy a meal with Jesus in His company.... because it looks like that's who just might be there.

We all start on the outside
The outside looking in
This is where grace begins
We were hungry, we were thirsty
With nothing left to give
Oh the shape that we were in
Just when all hope seemed lost
Love opened the door for us
He said come to the table
Come join the sinners who have been redeemed
Take your place beside the Savior
Sit down and be set free
Come to the table
Come meet this motley crew of misfits
These liars and these thiefs
There's no one unwelcome here
So that sin and shame that you brought with you
You can leave it at the door
Let mercy draw you near
Come to the table
Come join the sinners who have been redeemed
Take your place beside the Savior
Sit down and be set free
Come to the table
Come to the table
To the thief and to the doubter
To the hero and the coward
To the prisoner and the soldier
To the young and to the older
All who hunger, all who thirst
All the last and all the first
All the paupers and the princes
All who fail you've been forgiven
All who dream and all who suffer
All who loved and lost another
All the chained and all the free
All who follow, all who lead
Anyone who's been let down
All the lost you have been found
All who have been labeled right or wrong
To everyone who hears this song
Come to the table
Come join the sinners you have been redeemed
Take your place beside the Savior
Sit down and be set free
Sit down and be set free
Come to the table
Come to the table
Just sit down and rest a while
Just sit down and rest a while
Come to the table

Monday, January 15, 2018

Who and How?

One of my favorite songs is one that I did not hear until I was a United Methodist and it was sung at Bart's ordination.   It's become a favorite of mine over the years and I'm sure I've shared it here before.

When we were singing it yesterday these words stuck out to me:

I will hold Your people in my heart.

When I am singing a song to God, I remind myself to think about what I'm singing.  I don't want to promise something to God in a song that I have no intention of doing.  So as I sang those words I started thinking "who are God's people" and "what does it mean to hold them in my heart?"

It would be nice if we could conclude that "God's people" are the ones who are in my little world... people who agree with me theologically and doctrinally ... people who look like me, act like me, and act like me.  But God is so much bigger than that.  I believe that "God's people" might very well include every person that He created.

And if that is so, what does it mean to 'Hold them in my heart?"  I'm sure it has different ramifications in different contacts, but I'm pretty sure it always includes being gracious, forgiving, and compassionate, regardless of that person's personality, circumstances, or belief system.

It may be that God views our commitments to Him in light of the way we treat those we love the least.  If so, we all probably have some changes to make.  

To sing the words, "Here I am Lord" may be easy -- but to mean them is so much more.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Stockpiling Stupidity

Sometimes the way that Eugene Peterson paraphrases Scripture in The Message cracks me up.   Here’s what Proverbs 14:29 says;
Slowness to anger makes for deep understanding; a quick-tempered person stockpiles stupidity.
As happens several times in Proverbs, there is a contrast, a choice, of two ways to live.

The first is to be slow to anger.  The more I think about this verse the more I realize how true it is.  If we are slow to anger it results in deep understanding.

Think of the last time someone frustrated you and you handled it well.  Instead of responding in anger you took your time to come up with a way to explain yourself.  You went to that person and you talked to them face to face.   You shared your “side” of the story, they shared theirs, you listened, they listened, and the result …. deeper understanding!   

Now think of the last time someone frustrated you and you didn’t handle it well.  You got angry quickly and the way you defused your anger was to tell your husband, your best friend, three coworkers, and put a vaguebook post on Facebook.   Your anger increased as you listened to their their responses and the information they added to your story was like fuel to a fire.   That is what the writer of Proverbs referred to as “Stockpiling stupidity.”

I’m just as guilty as the next person of stockpiling stupidity, especially when I am quick to anger with a few of my children.  I keep thinking that if I just explain it one more time, more loudly and with more intensity, they will get it.   And then I am reminded of one of my favorite quotes:

If you tell a child something 1,000 times and he still doesn’t get it, it’s not hte child that is the slow learner.

Sure, the words "stockpiling stupidity are harsh" but they certainly apply to me when I let my anger take over.  Instead of gaining a deeper understanding, the resentment builds until relationships are much harder to fix.   

Did you learn this song as a child?  The last part stings.   

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Why did the pictures of food and treadmills stop? Off the Wagon?

You may have noticed a stop in the flurry of posts about Do It 4 the Kids Day.   This blog entry is an attempt to honestly explain why I have been posting less.

1)  "Crowdfunding" can really start to mess with your head.   Here's some of the rational and irrational thoughts I've had.

  • As always, I was over-the-top with my posts and people started to complain. That lead me to believe that several people stopped following me on Facebook because of the posts.   It makes it discouraging to post stuff if you think it's just making more people unfollow you and seems counterproductive.
  • I started to take it personally.  Some of the people who I view as my closest friends and those who I felt would be most likely to give are not responding and then I started wondering why.  That can really start doing a number on your brain.  I know that they can at least spare $5 and so I started to ask if I had offended someone and that goes nowhere good.
  • I kept fighting with trying to find a balance of keeping people engaged and driving them bat-crap-crazy.   I never felt like I was reaching it and trying to figure out how was making me a bit nutty. 
2)  I had a slump right around the holidays in regards to weight loss.   I was clicking away at a very good pace and then it stopped.  I only went off the plan for 4 days and I didn't even go crazy.  In fact. it was the Christmas I ate the least of probably my whole life.  But when I gained weight and then it started making it really hard to take it off I got discouraged.  I didn't quit, I just didn't feel like posting.

3)  My food got really routine and thus more boring to post.  I am pretty much eating the same things and showing you my banana and cheese stick every afternoon at 3 seemed nuts.

4)  People stopped responding and fundraising went stale.   I figure I need to change my strategy but not sure how.  Any ideas you have would be welcomed.

5)  Some people at work haven't gotten as excited about this as I had hoped and that has been somewhat discouraging.  My role as "Chief Officer" sometimes isn't a good combination with my personality.  :-)  Being relational and authentic and also having "power" means that it's easy to be misunderstood.

BUT, the good news is this.  I'm still training, I'm still dieting, I'm back to losing and I feel better than I have in a long long time.   I'm 60% to my fundraising goal and still have ideas up my sleeve.

I'm still stuck on knowing how much to post though.   Ideas?

What's your excuse?

Have you heard or read the lyrics to the song “live with abandon” by the Newsboys.  If not, you can do so by clicking below :-)

Most of my life I have been extremely passionate about whatever I’m doing and all of it has been done in the name of Jesus.  I certainly have not always done it perfectly and I fail often, but I have always had that desire to “live with abandon.”  

If you think I”m a bit over-the-top now, you should have known me 30 years ago.    I had all the youthful energy I needed, a bold and, Bart would say, brazen personality, and loads of passion.   This often created bull-in-the-china-closet recklessness that got me in trouble, but most of the time people recognized that my heart was in the right place.

I heard the song I referenced above:
I wanna live with abandon
Give you all that I am
Every part of my heart Jesus I place in your hands 
I wanna live with abandon
As I listened to the song I realized that I had all kinds of reasons why I couldn’t do that anymore.  Living with abandon in a youthful, energetic, healthy body is much easier that doing so now.   Living with abandon as a single person was so much easier than being a clergy spouse with twelve children and seven grandchildren.   Living with abandon was much easier when I had the world all figured out, everything was black and white, and I knew everything like most people do at 20.   Now it’s so much more complicated.

I realized though, that these are all excuses…. that living with abandon is a choice.  Maybe it has to be modified some as our age and responsibilities change, but it’s a choice.   There really is no excuse.

Jesus wants all of us …. even if what we believe we have to give is insufficient, He doesn’t believe that.  He just asks for it all.  And for Him that’s enough.

So what’s your excuse today?  Let’s rid ourselves of all of the reasons why it’s not possible to live with abandon and make the choice to do so today!

Friday, January 05, 2018

It’s all a Matter of Perspective

Some friends and I are reading through the Bible chronologically in 2018 and that means we are reading Job.   A facebook post in the group of us that are committed to this said something like this:

I am realizing by reading through the book of Job that my life isn’t nearly as bad as I think it is sometimes.  Job had it REALLY bad and I need choose to praise God in all things.

This is so true.  It’s all a matter of perspective.  I have a really good friend and when we were in the throws of parenting really difficult children we would have a “bad day contest.”  That means that I would call her at the end of the day and we would compare which of us had the worst day.  It was great because it didn’t matter who did.

If I called her and my day was worse, I won the contest!   

If I called her and her day was worse, I felt good that I wasn’t her!

Because really it’s a matter of perspective.   We all have things that come into our lives that are less than pleasant and we have to maneuver them.   The secret is being able to hold on to hope, see the good in what happens, and believe that God is on the throne.   

I would like to introduce you to a series of songs today about the book of Job.   Today just listen to the first section if you don’t have time for it all.   My favorite line in this song is this:
And yet through it allThrough the tears and painHe worshiped his God, found no reason to blame
May we be able to do as Job did….. through tears, through pain — worship and not blame!

Thursday, January 04, 2018

Formula for 2018

Solomon wasn’t exactly a cheery person.  He didn’t always see things from a “glass half full” perspective.   In Ecclesiastes he spends lots of time talking about how meaningless life is.

But this paragraph is chapter five gives us some good advice:
Take care of yourself, have a good time, and make the most of whatever job you have for as long as God gives you life. And that’s about it. That’s the human lot. Yes, we should make the most of what God gives, both the bounty and the capacity to enjoy it, accepting what’s given and delighting in the work. It’s God’s gift! God deals out joy in the present, the now. It’s useless to brood over how long we might live.
Even though it’s still said with a bit of dismay — “tha’s about it…. that’s the human lot,” what he has to say makes a lot of sense.  Let’s break it down:
  1. Take care of yourself.  Mentally, physically, spiritually — it’s ok to focus on these things because if you don’t you can’t take care of anyone else.
  2. Have a good time.   I like it that Scripture tells us to have fun!  Christians sometimes forget that laughter and the ability to enjoy one another was one of God’s ideas.   
  3. Make the most of whatever job you have.  Find ways to be your best self and bring all of who you are to the table to do the work God has given you.
  4. Make the most of the bounty God gives and our capacity to enjoy it.   God gives us so many gifts …. we need to increase our capacity to recognize these things, to accept them, and to enjoy them.
  5. Delight in your work and see it as God’s gift.   Of the 168 hours in a week, most of us work 40 of them.  That’s 25% of all of our time …. and if you sleep 8 hours a night, then it’s 35% of our waking hours.  If your job is a drudgery, that’s a lot of life to waste!  Find ways to see your job as God’s gift and to delight in it.
What a great formula for the coming year:  Take care of yourself, have fun, make the most of your job, and recognize, accept and enjoy the bounty God has given.    My guess is that living this way will allow God to "deal out joy in the present", every day of 2018. 

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Want to Join Me in a Journey through the Bible?

A coworker challenged people on Facebook to join her in reading through the Bible this year.  You may know that last year I listened to the Bible from beginning to end in order.  This year, I’m doing it chronologically — which means that I got to Genesis 11 and was suddenly in Job.

For me it’s been quite easy.  I have the YouVersion Bible App.  I have bluetooth in my car.  I commute anywhere from 6 to 9 (or more) hours a week.   No reason I can’t listen to the Bible in a year.   

Last year I listened to “The Message” and it was like listening to a whole new book.   Thoughts came to me in different ways than they ever had before and I learned so much.   This year I’m going to the NIV — it’s comforting because I’ve memorized most verses from there and it’s the version I used growing up.

There’s a reason that the Psalmist wrote that God’s Word is a lamp and a light …. it shows us stuff.  Stuff that can help us make good choices and head in right directions.

So how about it?  Let’s do this together!  Who is in?