I Love You, But I’m Not You

Fants Grove Cemetery, Anderson, SC
To my atheist and agnostic friends, I want to tell you why I will never be one of you. This also applies to my gloomy Christian friends, since I can never be one of you either.

You see, when I was a child, Jesus came to live in our house. I learned to talk with him by hearing my parents talk with him. He sat at our pink kitchen table, he rode in our green Chevy station wagon, and he sat by my bedside while I fell asleep. 

He provided us a place to live, he led my father into ministry, he sent angels to our house with groceries, and he healed us when we were sick. 

I can never be a doubter or an unbeliever when he has proved to me that he is real.

We talked to him as much as we talked about him. He wasn’t just a Sunday subject. But, oh the Sundays we had with him (and with our friends who knew him too) were wonderful. 

I can never be a gloomy Christian. I have experienced too much life and joy in my times of private worship and in times where I was one of a dozen, or thousands, of believers corporately lifting our hearts and voices in praise.

My memories from childhood are filled with lyrics that included phrases like “Jesus is a friend of mine,” “All to Jesus I surrender,” and “Each step I take my savior goes before me.”

These weren’t just words we sang by rote, they were the true sentiment of our relationship with Jesus.

Mama prayed the sweetest prayers, and Daddy prayed until God answered. Mama would raise her face toward the heavens, close her eyes, smile, and sing, “Oh, I want to see Him, look upon His face.” 

Tomorrow marks two years since that prayer was answered. I suspect she still isn’t tired of looking on his face.

So, no sir, I won’t be joining the ranks of the doubters and unbelievers, and I can never be gloomy about my relationship with a person who has been part of my entire life in such a real, powerful way. I hope you know him too.

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Put Your Bible Away!

img_3035Have you noticed how everyone is so angry these days? There is so much animosity and even hatred being spewed from people I generally would consider meek and humble. No sir, not when they get behind their keyboards or smart phones. They become bold (read verocious) as a lion!

Here’s some of what I have recently read:

  • You can’t be a Christian unless you love the foreigner (Mark 12:31), or
  • Muslims are pawns of Satan. (John 8:44)
  • National borders are God’s idea, (Acts 17:26) or
  • Immigrants are the same as “us.” (Leviticus 19:34)
  • Don’t call yourself a follower of Christ if you disagree with me. (Amos 3:3)
  • I’m an independent woman, so don’t “put me in my place” (Genesis 1:26f), or
  • Unless you are submissive, you aren’t following God. (1 Cor 6:20)

Any one of these statements will cause an online storm. Not the gentle summer thunderstorm we’re accustomed to here in the South, but the full fury of a Midwestern spring hailstorm.

Truthfully, since each of these statements is accompanied by a “supporting” Bible verse, I could feel compelled to agree with them all. However, there’s the issue of context. I’m not referring to the context of a couple of verses before and after the ones listed, I mean interpreting each of these individual verses in the context of the entire Bible. These statements should be measured against what the BIBLE says, not what the verse says.

Some “Christians” have forsaken the Bible. I think I know why. Their favorite verses can be countered by another person’s favorite verses. Why should I take my cues from the Bible at all if someone can argue against me from another verse? Well, of course they can. It’s because you’re both picking selective verses rather than the complete Story the Bible tells.

You cannot have a clear view of God or his plan from one verse. One verse can be interpreted in a variety of ways and even can misrepresent what the entireity of the Scriptures teach.

From Genesis to Revelation, God is revealed, but you’ll only see a glimpse of Him in one book. For instance, God IS love, but He isn’t JUST love. So, if you’re going to use only one verse to describe God, you’ll likely get it wrong. If that’s your plan, just put your Bible away. You can come up with something as good as one verse on your own.

Here’s my suggestion: instead of searching for a verse to prop up what you believe, plan to read through the entire Bible this year. Go indepth. Anyone can be shallow, be different! Challenge your beliefs, check them against what you find in the Bible story. (There’s only one, you know?) Base your belief on what is revealed throughout the connected inner stories.

But if you’re interested in posting ONE verse, be sure your interpretation of it is a representation of the whole book. The Story is a fascinating one. It is life-changing and freeing when you get it. Let’s use it to speak life and freedom to everyone who will listen.

It’s Time!

deathtostock_sweat-10My first big trip took place the week of my 18th birthday. I was part of a small group that toured Jordan and Israel. Until then, I had never ventured far from the East Coast.

I planned everything I would take on my big excursion out of the country. I made a list of what I would wear each day of the trip: shirt, pants, sweater or jacket, underwear, socks, and shoes. It was all preplanned.

At some point later in life, I stopped planning. When I travelled, nearly everything in the closet ended up in my suitcases, “just in case.” But, the extra load caused me to move slower, it was difficult to carry, and made the trips less enjoyable.

It’s a life lesson for us, I think. Along the way, we’ve accummulated a lot of extra stuff. We’re weighed down with worry or cares of life that weren’t meant for our journey. We’ve accepted responsibilites that should have been handed to someone else. We’ve taken up a secondhand offense that became our own. We’ve been weighed down by helping family and friends when they refused to help themselves. Now, we’re stuck wondering how to let go and move forward.

If you haven’t noticed, no one is coming to your rescue. It seems the people around are so self-focused that they can’t even see your need for help. So what do you do?

I have a suggestion. YOU make a decision. You can choose to live differently. You can refuse to accept responsibility for someone else’s mess. You can free yourself from relationships that are dragging you down. One by one, you can see the entanglements for what they are, roadblocks. You will never reach your destination if you continue to carry baggage that isn’t yours.

Paul wrote in Hebrews 12:1 “Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.”

Throw. It. Off. That’s your job. Whether or not it’s a sin, if it’s holding you back, get rid of it. Whether or not it’s “good,” if it’s holding you back, get rid of it. Whether or not it’s fun, if it’s holding you back, get rid of it.

Examine everything. Ask yourself, “Is this moving me forward or holding me back?” If it’s holding you back, get rid of it.

At this point in my old age, I’m at some happy middle ground. When getting ready for a trip, I don’t overplan, but I also don’t overpack. I want to travel with only one bag, if possible. It makes the trip easier for me.

There’s something to be said for throwing off extra baggage.

Listen Linda

This is a powerful piece that deals with an important topic. I think it’s more powerful to realize the greater truth behind this: When a real person is involved your opinion will change, your words will change, your attitude will change, and OUR future will change.

It’s easy to sit behind a keyboard and wax eloquent about how everyone else’s opinion is wrong (I know!). It’s easy to make a big deal out of nothing. It’s easy to demonize those with whose opinion you disagree. It’s easy to create a hero or a villain out of someone you’ve never met.

If you sat in a chair looking into the eyes of Hillary, Donald, Colin, Ryan, Shaun, Kanye, Justin, Miley, or Tony and LISTENED, you would probably want to delete most of your Facebook posts.

Our world would change if we sought first to hear rather than to be heard.

What Shall Separate Us?

We live in a world of division. We’re divided by race, nationality, city boundaries, which side of the tracks you live on, which team you pull for, or sometimes even more inane things.

Christians are not exempt. We divide ourselves by denominations, ethnicity, worship styles, which version of the Bible you prefer, or sometimes even more inane things.

However, that’s not the church that Jesus created. He did not create a white church and a black church or a Pentecostal church and a Presbyterian Church.

By his grace, Jesus tore down the wall of petition between Jews and the rest of the world, between men and women, between races, between the Pharisees and the publicans, between the sinners and the saints.

If you ever wondered why I’m passionate about unity or why I insist on having multi-ethnic and multi-gender leaders in my church, it’s because Jesus called me to do that. I believe he called all of us to do that.

It has never been my place to point out our differences or to separate people into groups. The haves and the have not’s may make for good television, but it is not the way of the kingdom.

The way of the kingdom is that in our reconciliation to God we are also reconciled to one another. We have been called to proclaim good news to every creature.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.

‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭5:17-19‬ ‭NIV‬