Caught

CAUGHT

“The Lord will be your confidence and keep your foot from being caught.” Proverbs 3:26

In the movies, during an action sequence, there is a go to moment that helps heighten the excitement.  The woman in high heels.  Running across train tracks… her heel gets caught.  Running along a pier… her heel gets caught between the planks.  Running across the street… caught in a manhole lid.  Running down the sidewalk… caught in a great or crack.

I’ve never been running for my life, but I have gotten my heel caught.  Once, at a bridal shower, my heel got caught multiple times.  At the hostess’ home there was a beautiful deck and my heel kept getting caught in between the wood planks.  The first time, I laughed it off.  The second time, I almost dropped my plate.  The third time, it brought me to a sudden stop and I almost created a three woman pile up.  I was embarrassed that I kept allowing this to happen.  I could have paid more attention where I stepped.

In life, there are a lot of times where I could stand to pay a bit more attention to what is happening around me.  Perhaps I could have been a bit wiser, or exercised a bit more caution.  I could have learned from my mistakes, instead of repeating them.  When others shared their wisdom with me, I could have heeded their warnings instead of digging in my heels and thinking I could do things my own way.

As a believer, I can learn a lot of practical wisdom in the pages of the Scriptures.  The more I commit myself to the Lord, dig into the Scriptures to understand His character, and dedicate myself to following His commands the more I walk in confidence, God Confidence.  I am confident in who He is, I am confident in His promises, I am confident in His direction.  When I am walking with God Confidence, I don’t have to worry about my heel getting caught.

Feet Washing…

feetwashingJesus washed the feet of Judas, a few hours later Judas would betray him.

Foot washing displayed different significant things in Biblical times.

It put a person in a servant posture.  It was an act of humbleness and humility.  It was a necessary act.  A repetitive act, as well.

Something I read recently made a great observation about Jesus’ washing of the disciples feet.  First, it was pointed out that there was no servant there to do the job.  Second, they were already in the midst of the meal when Jesus’ took on the task.

When there was no servant there to handle the foot washing, it never dawned on the disciples to do it for each other.

Third, when Jesus began to wash Peter’s feet there was a protest by Peter.  He didn’t want Jesus to do something he felt was beneath the Messiah.  Jesus responded: “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me” (John 13:8); to which Peter then asked for a complete cleaning.  Which is exactly what happens when are spiritually cleansed… when the blood of Christ washes away all of our iniquity.

When He was finished, Jesus said “I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you” (John 13:15).

Remember the earlier point about it never dawning on the men to wash each other’s feet?  We have been commanded to be Christlike, to posture ourselves a servant for others.  To wash the feet of those who we love, and even those who will betray us.

We may wash feet with bowls of water, expensive oils, and perfumes.  We may dry those feet with soft towels or strips of linen.  Or, we may wash their feet with our tears and dry them with our hair (Luke 7:44).  We wash their feet when we drop off meals while they recover, or mow the lawns of the elderly.  We wash their feet when we grasp their hands, and provide a shoulder to cry on.  We wash their feet when we speak blessings over the friend and the stranger.

We wash their feet when we posture ourselves to serve, not be served.

The Apology I Didn’t Know That I Needed

TheapologyIdidntknowineededIn my previous two pieces, I shared about my experiences with this year’s Gospel Coalition Conference.  First, I shared my personal retreat reflections which helped me recognize that I had some issues where I was harboring some anger towards people that I needed to forgive.

Then, in the second piece, I shared how my mentoring session with Serge.org showed me other areas where anger had been rearing it’s ugly head in my life.  Anger is a sneaky sin, that can mask itself in many ways.  Some seeming obvious, others much more subtle.  I knew that I needed to address these issues.  There were people I needed to forgive, including myself.  I needed to preach the Gospel to myself every day, reminding myself how the Lord sees me vs. the lies I have been told.

The third reflection was the two moments in which someone who had never wronged me apologized for the wrongs others have committed.

This first time happened during my serge.org mentor session.  As you may recall in the session I shared about my ministry work, obstacles I was facing, and how I felt like a failure in certain aspects of the work.  While my mentor, Hunter, did shift the conversation to a more personal direction… the first thing he did before taking that turn was to apologize.  In fact, perhaps it was my response to the apology that confirmed for him that the personal direction was the path he needed to travel down.

He recognized that the obstacles I was facing were very wrong, and hurtful ones… and he apologized to me for it.  I have never expected an apology over any issue in my life.  Maybe I set my expectations too low, or experience has taught me that apologizes come less often than deserved.  Regardless, I have never expected a person who has never wronged me to apologize on behalf of others.  This apology was spoken directly to me, not in generalities and with complete sincerity.  It ushered in validation that I didn’t know I needed to hear, but clearly I did.  I needed to not only hear the words, but I needed to hear a man speak them.

His apology was still sinking in, when I attended a workshop on Pastors and Women in Ministry.  At the beginning of the session we were given instructions to put questions on cards for the panel and pass them forward.  In the latter half of the workshop, the panel members would try to get to as many questions as possible.  There was no way to get to them all and the moderator did a great job of trying to collate similar questions into one general concept.   One of the questions dealt with Women’s Ministry Leaders who didn’t feel supported by their church, another one came up about women who didn’t feel like their church valued their expertise or ministry skills, a third question about how to disagree with your Pastor respectfully when you are a woman with higher education in the field or expert on a subject, and some women just wanted to be trusted to lead well.

These questions were answered, but you could tell one of the panelists was uncomfortable by the similarities of the questions.  It was his turn to address the next question, but he paused with the need to address the questions of the hurt women in the group.  In a microphone, to a room filled with women and Pastors, at a workshop that would be recorded and listed on TGC’s media page for the conference for the world to hear… Pastor Sandy Willson spoke to the hurt women with a very simple, “I am so sorry.”

It was sweet, tender, and genuine.  It was spoken to the group at large, but in many ways I felt like it was directed right at my heart.  Tears filled my eyes.  Twice in one day, I would hear and receive an apology from a man who never wronged me.  And, twice it would impact me more than I expected and bring in a sense of peace.

In honesty, I suppose there are some people I wish would say they were sorry for treating me a particular way.  But, I believe pride has prevented that.  Which has allowed me to more forward knowing that until they deal with their pride, and apology will never happen.  I didn’t expect that I would need to hear from just anyone that they were sorry for the events that occurred.  I had no way of knowing how their apology could lighten my load and make my steps toward forgiveness come with such peace.

I find myself able to let go of it not only toward the specific people involved in those situations, but also realized that I had been projecting their behaviors on others.  I was lumping all the apples in to the bad pile, allowing one bad apple to spoil my feelings toward an entire group.  Instead of tossing the bad apples aside, and being thankful for the good ones.

And so, I want to pass this gift on to you.  Whomever you are.  I know that at some point someone treated you unfairly, spoke unkind words to you, broke your heart and your trust, and I know that sometimes these wounds are deep.

I am so, so, sorry.  I pray the Lord comforts you, that there will be people He will put in your path that will lift you up, and that you can forgive even those who don’t ask for it.

Alive in Him by Gloria Furman

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I received a copy of Alive in Him from the Publisher for the purpose of reviewing.  The thoughts and opinions in this piece are my own.

On my flight out to Indiana, for The Gospel Coalition Conference, I brought my copy of Alive in Him by Gloria Furman.  Coincidentally, the theme of the conference plenary sessions was unpacking the book of Galatians.  And, here I find myself reading about it’s neighboring book Ephesians.

Alive in Him is an exploration of the book of Ephesians, and was designed to be read along side an open Bible.  I’ve been a fan of Gloria Furman for quite some time, and I love her intelligent writing style.  She tackles the Scriptures beautifully without underestimating the readers ability to comprehend.  Yet her written word flows with grace, beauty, and femininity.

You can tell that Gloria Furman loves the Word, and desires her readers to understand the depths of God’s promises to His children of redemption.  Then she takes this information and packages it in a way that makes it relatable to our every day life… what does this mean to me today?  How do Paul’s letters to the Ephesians matter in the world, city, and church that I live in today?  What do these letters mean to my personal life and circumstances?

So why read Alive in Him?  If there is anything that I can say comes through Gloria Furman’s writings and interviews is that she has a deep love of God.  It’s not lip service, but genuine and infectious… you want the world to see that same level of love for God in your own life.  However, we must each come to that place on our own … where we truly “get it”.  That is why you should read this book, because Furman desires for you to see God’s tremendous love for you in the same way she does.

This walk through Ephesians presses you not just into how Furman perceives the text, but sends you directly to the Word for your own participation in the conversation.  She shares her wisdom and what she has learned, but challenges her readers to view the text and experience it for themselves.  This isn’t a one way teaching, with a professor standing at a lectern.  Instead you are almost transported to her living room, as if you have been invited to Small Group at the Furman house.

Her approach is kind, loving, and graceful as she unfolds the Scriptures before you.

One of my favorite quotes from the book is:

“The Holy Spirit will not allow you to live satisfied on the rubbish heap; he will nurture a longing for the City of God to beat in your heart.”

~ Gloria Furman, Alive in Him

And I think that quote really does justice to the theme of the book, to help you fulfill that desire to have the “City of God” beating in your heart.   If that is your longing, this book is a great start to put you on the path.

Peace in Difficult Times

MBA

A few months back, a friend posted on her Facebook page the following question:

Where do you find peace during the difficult times?

Once upon a time when I struggled with things, I internalized them.  Playing the scenario over in my head, dwelling on what I can’t change, angry at the person who was at the root of it.  I knew, even then, that all of this worry or dwelling on things wouldn’t change the outcome.  It was, what it was.  In someways I think I was hoping I would learn something from the replay.  Catch where I made the mistake, or clues that would have alerted me to the person’s un-trustworthiness.  I could learn how to avoid that scenario or personality in the future.  I was relying on my own self to figure out the complexity of relationships and circumstances that were almost always outside of anything I could control.  As habits repeated, I learned an important thing… I couldn’t rely on myself and my own thinking to resolve every situation or deal with every person.  I was human. Flawed.

For a period of time, I tried to seek the counsel of others.  Guess what?  They are human too, flawed as well.  There were definitely occasions where I was given good advice but more often than not it was biased advice.  These were people who loved me, cared about me, and often sided with me.  They might give me a pass for something I should be accountable for.  Or, try to solve the problem for me.  They immediately blamed the other person, because they knew my heart and intentions.  They were on my side.  But not always on the side of truth.  I learned that I couldn’t rely on others to give me the truth I needed to hear.  Not because they were bad people, but because they loved me.

What I know now is that there is someone who loves me more than anyone else.  Someone who sent his Son to die for every sin I would commit.  Someone who took the penalty but at the same time was holding me accountable to truth.  Christ calls me to be honest with myself.  Christ compels me to forgive others, and myself.  Christ beckons me to his shoulder to cry out in my sin, speak truth to that sin, and set me on the path to reconcile with others (and myself).  I’ve learned that when the times are really difficult, I need to turn to Christ for truth.  What is the truth of this difficult time?  What do the scriptures advise me to do now that I know the truth?  What would God have me do in this situation or with this person.  I can rely on God because His Word is unchanging, infallible, and loving.  He loves me so much that I will face Truth and be better for it.

I find peace at the Cross, because there Jesus did exactly what He promised.  Just prior, he told the disciples that He was leaving peace for them so they wouldn’t be troubled.  He didn’t say that there would be no difficult times, but instead left us with the hope that we can persevere (Romans 5:1-5) until He returns.   When difficult times find me, I turn to the Cross for peace, hope, perseverance, and patience as I await the day… the glorious day… that the difficult times are gone.

27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

28 “You heard me say, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. 29 I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe. 30 I will not say much more to you, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold over me, 31 but he comes so that the world may learn that I love the Father and do exactly what my Father has commanded me.

“Come now; let us leave.

John 14:27-31

A friend once told me, during a particularly difficult moment, “I am sorry you are in this, but I am so excited to see what happens when you are on the other side of this”.  Now when I face trials and difficulties, I go to the Cross and deposit them there.  Then I leave with excitement to see what the Lord is going to do with that trial, through me, or through those He will put in my path.  Difficult times become a learning experience where I learn how loving, faithful and true the Lord is.

Enjoying the Break

I’ve been slowly working my way through the book Enjoy and I’ve really been thinking about how much more I could be enjoying the life that the Lord has gifted me.  Enjoying serving more directly.  Enjoying the friendships He has brought into my life, which have been answers to specific prayers and longings of my heart.  Enjoying the opportunities to get out of my nest and fellowship in new places with new faces.

So, I put the book down for a few days and did just that.

I enjoyed Thanksgiving with my family and our new extended family members, as our family grows.  I stole away from the food and conversations and spent a precious 30 minutes or more with my new grand niece.  I couldn’t be more in love with her.

Then, I actually went Black Friday shopping.  I’ve never done that in my entire life.  But, later in the afternoon my husband and kids convinced me to go.  We had a great time and fortunately had missed a lot of the chaos.

I decided that I didn’t want to schedule much in those days before the kids went back to school.  Instead, I wanted to enjoy my time with each of them.  Playing board games and watching Christmas movies.

I called up a friend who I knew would be busy in December and made sure to schedule in some face time once the kids were back at school.  It was great to do something last minute, even it if meant it had to be short.  I enjoy spending time with her because she is safe, I don’t have to tread lightly or watch how I word things. She chooses to see the best in me and gives me the benefit of the doubt.

Another friend invited me to her church Women’s Event and I wasn’t certain I could go.  But, I made it happen.  What a blessing it was too!  From the evening’s events to the face I ran into my nephew’s wife there.  That was a surprise!  We had the chance to have a little fun together and talk before the night ended.  Had I not gone, I would have missed that beautiful memory.

I attended that Sunday’s service at a different time, and ran into faces I hadn’t seen in a while.  It was great to catch up and ended up making plans to get together more frequently.  Multiple services can do that, you know… separate you and you don’t even realize it happened.

That evening, I realized I had a burden on my heart.  I reached out to another friend and we scheduled a very last minute meet up at her house.  I am so grateful that she was able to squeeze me in, listen to me, counsel me, and pray with me.

There are times we can focus on what we wish we had, and not see the blessings that the Lord has put right in front of us.  I’m so glad that the Lord is opening up my eyes to enjoy these relationships and opportunities in a new way.

Sometimes, we need to put down the book and actually DO IT.

I’m not only choosing to enjoy…

I am choosing JOY.

I am choosing to REJOICE.

And I am going to love and find contentment in all that He has given me, my cup runneth over, I want for nothing but more of HIM.

Now What? – #Write31Days

 

If you are a leader of any sort, you may be looking at a list of emails or text messages seeking your opinion.  In the last few days, a well known author is at the center of some controversy.    Her fans are sticking by her side.  Her friends are comfortable to agree to disagree.  Her critics finally received the ammunition they needed to label her a heretic.

The people whom you lead may be asking you…

“What does this mean?”

“Do I have to stop reading her books?”

“Is she right, or is she wrong?”

“What is your opinion?”

You may find yourself struggling as well.  Are you the die hard fan that thinks she can do no wrong, the one who can see so much value in what she has offered that you are comfortable disagreeing with her on this controversy, or are you the critic who has been waiting in the wings for the shoe to drop?

This situation is not unique.  I have heard plenty of criticism about certain Bible teachers, famous Pastors, and specific authors for a very long time.  Video clips, quotes from their books, etc. which have helped their critics drive home points about the person being a false teacher, heretic, and sometimes far more drastic terms.

How, as a leader do I respond to these questions and criticisms?  How am I responding to emails, texts, and posts about this newest controversy?  By not giving my own opinion, but instead by suggesting to each person how they can go about figuring out the answer for themselves.  It is the same litmus I suggest to women in my small groups and women’s ministry leaders to use when selecting Bible study materials.

First, I establish the reminder that we are all humans and prone to err.  Additionally the amount of knowledge I have to day is vastly greater than what I knew 5 years, 10 years, 30 years ago.   As well, my opinions and interpretations have changed over the years with the accumulation of knowledge, wisdom, and experience.  I need to remind myself (or whomever I am giving this counsel to) that I can’t hold anyone to a higher standard than I would hold myself.  If I need grace, they need grace too.

Second, I ask a few questions about the author:

?  –  What is his/her background?   Seminary student? Lay leader?  Seasoned speaker on the scene, or a new face?

? – Who is in his/her circle of influence?   Who does s/he read, quote, look up to, etc.  Is there any controversy regarding that leader?

? – Who endorses him/her?  What publishing companies are printing their material, and what standards does that company hold to?  What do leaders whom I respect say/write about him or her?  What conferences or organizations have supported him/her?

Third, I look at the criticisms of the author (body of work, personal life, etc).   If there is an accusation regarding an interview clip or quote from a book, I look into the full context.  I want to eliminate any criticism that is based on partial information.    If it is taken out of context, or there is no way for me to verify the context, it is disregarded.  If I can read it within the full context of the interview or book, then I feel more equipped to make an educated decision by testing it against the scripture.

I also want to look at when this interview or book was written.  It may be a legitimate criticism over a piece that is 10 or more years old.  Lord knows I am not the same person, same Christian, I was 10 years ago.  I’ve learned somethings.  If the criticism is that old, I look for more current works and interviews to determine if the author/speaker/Pastor still maintains these beliefs or not.

Fourth, I want to consider who is making the accusation and responsible for the criticism.   Is this a person who generally has a critical spirit over anyone who doesn’t fall in line with his/her beliefs?   Is this a person who is credible, or not?  What is being criticized, the author’s interpretation of a Biblical truth or a personal conviction?  What does this person get out of criticizing the author/speaker/Pastor?  Is there a pride issue here, of wanting to be right or a sincerity of wanting to expose truth?

Finally, if I am still uncertain, I MAY purchase the material and test it to the Word.  Now you could argue that this would be better suited for the first step.  I disagree.   Usually, a false teacher or heretic is going to be exposed in these first four steps.  I would rather not spend money on materials from a false teacher, adding to their coffers and raising their book up the best sellers list another notch.  I would rather not put into my mind materials that are false teachings.  I would hate for something to take hold and stick there, and later quote it in error.  So, if I can discount material before reading it… I would prefer to do so.  I also wouldn’t want anyone to assume that because it is in my possession I endorse it.  Trust me, when you invite me into your home… I am casing your bookshelf for reading suggestions.

That said, new authors and speakers may not have enough history to address those first four steps appropriately.  If it comes down to it, I have to make a stand.  I can purchase the material, test it against the Scripture, and then make an informed decision.  OR, I can choose to skip the material altogether or at least until I can learn more about the author and their beliefs.  It is okay to not jump right on the band wagon of the newest popular speaker, author, or Pastor.  To take your time, observing and testing what you can.  When in doubt and you can’t find clarity, it is better to pass it up than regret your decision to engage.

So, does this mean I disregard everything this person has ever said?  No, not necessarily.  A friend of mine once said, ” a broken clock is right twice per day “.  There are authors who I do read, that claim to be Christian authors, and I do question some of their theological statements and interpretations.  However, because I am testing it against the scriptures… I know what to disregard.  I often read some of these authors as if they are secular authors versus Christians.  There are speakers who are great motivators and have some challenging words on social justice, and I can value the words they speak without affirming the rest of their beliefs are doctrinally sound.  There are some books I have completed avoided, because I don’t want to even entertain the thoughts and ideas shared in the material.

I would suggest to anyone before you jump on the bandwagon of criticism, do your due diligence.  Don’t rely on the opinions of others.  Pray that the Lord will give you clarity and discernment.  When it doubt, pass it up.  Be okay with giving time to build your own opinion.  Look at the big picture… who is the person, their life, their beliefs, their body of work.  Then make an educated informed decision.

The Theatre Runs Deep- #Write31Days

holyshake

Be still my heart.

I do love to review books, and nine of ten times I pick Christian non-fiction, bible studies, et’al.  When I saw this book on the list of prospective titles… I squealed a bit.

While I did just complete my Bachelors in Divinity, my original degree many years ago was in Theatre Arts.  I’m a theatre nerd, geek… whatever you call us in your neck of the woods.  I once went to London for two weeks.  I saw 21 productions.  One afternoon I bought a last minute ticket to “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare Abridged.”  When the show was over, they mentioned another production… “The Complete History of the United States”.    As I walked out of the theatre, got back in cue, and went right back in to catch it.

I’ve been cast in more Shakespeare (and parody) shows than I can count.

So… yes, this book had my name written all over it.   Turns out it isn’t a typical book, but rather a collection of quotes from Shakespeare and the scripture that it references.  Which is great, because it makes a great coffee table/conversation book.  Also, it would be a great gift to someone heading off to college or who just graduated with a theatre degree (be kind, and slip a $50 bill in there too).

It’s a fun book, and I was surprised how much scriptural references I have missed over the years.

Because, It IS Important – #Write31Days

 

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I requested a copy of The Gospel for Life Series:  The Gospel & Racial Reconciliation for review on this blog, from B&H Publishing Group.  I requested it, because this is an important issue.  In the New Year, the Women’s Ministry Council will be discussing this issue in regards to how we build up diversity and unity within our local Women’s Ministries.  I requested this book to help us prepare for this important conversation.

In 2016, the topic of race has been a hot button topic.   Deep generational woulds have been festering as the bandaids put in place are no longer working.  We are faced with truths that things are not that much better, at least not as much as we have convinced ourselves they had gotten.

I’ve listened to men and women recount their stories.  My eyes are opened to realize that something I perceived as a small percentage problem is much greater than that.  I’ve also witnessed people, who I have great respect and love for, say things that shocked me and made me question how well I know the hearts of those I include in my circle of friends.

When put on the spot, it is very interesting how our hearts will often be betrayed by our mouths.  We will say things that reveal who we are on a deeper level.  We also seem to allow a few bad apples to spoil the bunch, and use that excuse to dismiss that there is a real problem.  We accuse the media of creating something, I would challenge the media is simply exposing the festering wound that has been there all along.

As Christians, if we believe that we are all made in the image of God… if we believe the scriptures that in Christ there is no Jew or Gentile, man or women, servant or master but that we are all ONE… then how can we turn a blind eye to racial injustice in our world?  How can we not demand better for our brothers and sisters in Christ?

Lord take these scales from our eyes!  Let us see, truly see, what is happening and compel us to action!

In the book, The Gospel Life Series: The Gospel & Racial Reconciliation, the editors and contributing authors, begin at the beginning.

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The truth is beautiful.  Man and woman created in God’s image.  Not some men, or some women.  All of us.  Crafted in the likeness of our God.  Then man fell and we were distorted, but through Christ the old self died and we were a new creation.  A new creation in God, in His image.  All of us, regardless of the country we come from… the tint to our skin… the sound of our voice… the language we speak… the texture of our hair… the traditions of our culture… the food we eat… etc.   One people, united in the family of God. Sons and daughter of the Most High.

These first chapters explore the biblical truths of who we are, what we were created for, how ethnic and cultural differences were viewed in the scriptures, and how Christ would have us respond.  The latter chapters walk us through our personal response, in how we live out our lives, as well as how the church should respond.  Chapter 5 caps us off by looking at our modern culture and how racism exists today and what we can do about it.

This book is an excellent read, at five chapters it is one you could get through on a weekend.  I would challenge you to pray as you read through this book that the Lord would open your eyes, convict your heart if needed, and guide you to reconciliation when needed.  However, I would also challenge you to share this with your Pastors and ministry leaders.  As the church needs to be willing to stand up, united, to bring it’s family back together.