Where Does It Hurt?

hurtI came across this quote on the internet last night.   It spoke to so much of what was rolling around in my head.  On Friday evening as the attack on Paris was unfolding, I was in a meeting.  We were kind of secluded, and thus none of us were aware what was happening while we sat dishing out a to do list for our team of conference volunteers.

Over the past 46 days I have been slowly working my way through the Psalms.  My head has been swimming in the scriptures, where God’s people are calling out to him.  They are asking for divine intervention, they are looking to God to overthrow their enemies, they are seeking his protection, provision, and favor.

When I came across this quote… I thought of Paris.  I thought of Israel.  I thought of Africa.  I thought of Haiti, South America, and so many other places that are aching & have been for some time.  For some it is civil unrest, famine, poverty, medical crisis, abuse, sex trafficking, drug trafficking, genocide, evil and corrupt leaders…

I have also thought about those who are on our very streets, in the United States, suffering due to addiction, homelessness, untreated illnesses, mental illness…

I can’t help but to think of those who have prodigal children, missing family members, deployed spouses, terminal illness…

In a time of medical advancements, technology, wealth, and so many other things that should put things in our favor and give us the means to help others on a global scale…

The world hurts.

It cries out.

God do you hear me?  Do you hear my prayers?

Do not forget your servants, God!

Do not turn your face from us, do not withhold your blessing!

Lord, deliver us from our enemies.  Bring us into your presence.

For forty three of those verses were cries out to God (yes, some praises too.. but mostly cries).  This is the world today.  As I came into verses 45 and 46, I found a new page, a new voice.  Full of praises of the wonder and awesomeness of God and the Anointed One. 

The may be pain in the night.  But joy comes in the morning.  When the oceans rage, I don’t have to be afraid.  I know that YOU love me, your love never fails.

Praising you through the tears, clinging to your word.  Your world aches Lord, but our hope remains in you.  Examine us Lord, show us our iniquities, so that we may repent and be washed clean.  Do not forget your servants, you are our refuge and our protector.  We will sing of your glory forever.

Psalm 46:

God is our refuge and strength, and ever present help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.  Selah.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells.  God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day.  Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts.

The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress  Selah.

Come and see the works of the Lord, the desolations he has brought on the earth.  He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear, he burns the shields with fire.  “Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.  Selah.

For the Love of Peace….

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This post is part of Jen Hatmaker’s “For the Love” Blog Tour which I am delighted to be a part of along with many other inspiring bloggers.  To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE.

For the Love of Peace

If possible, on your part, live at peace with everyone.

Romans 12:18 (HCSB)

The pressures of life are surmounting.   The pressures on women are driving us to anxiety and depression.  Once upon a time, the only expectations upon us were to be image bearers, good wives, good mothers, good stewards, and good students of the word.  Over the course of history, to modern day, those expectations grew.

A perfect home.

Perfect children.

The perfect wife.

Then we added to those pressures as women entered the work force.   Now not only did we have to be perfect in every way at home, but also at work.  As more women entered the work force, the expectations upon them grew to become a super woman.

Then, there was a shift.  Women began staying home with their children again.  However, this added to the pressures of the perfect home life because she no longer had to balance outside work and housework.  We thrust upon her the notion that children’s birthday parties had to be grand, we needed to scrapbook every day of our children’s lives, and that we had to not only be the super mom… but also the super wife.  Proverbs 31 Woman became a piece of scripture that women were clinging to in order to become the super Christian woman, as well.

The pressure was mounting.

And then, it happened… social media exploded and took women along for the ride.

We had Pinterest to help us make the perfect meals, hand craft decorations for our homes, and upping the children’s birthday party to epic levels.

Facebook tossed in our faces, daily, the women who were winning at life.  Working out every day to maintain her perfect body.  Her perfect weekend crafting with her kids.  Date night, once a week, with her perfect husband.  The flowers he sends her, the gifts he gives her, the attention he showers her with.

Instagram became a revealing window to how much fun others were having, without us.  We saw their “girls weekend getaway” that we were not invited to.   We commented on the fifty hand made invitations for her Women’s Ministry luncheon.  We loved her outfit of the day photo, while we sat in the jeans we bought six years ago that are holding on by threads.

The pressure kept growing… and growing….

Before we could even realize it was happening, the green eyed monster of envy was rearing it’s ugly head.  To see it, we just had to look in the mirror.

We were jealous of her doting husband.

We felt left out of the fun.

We didn’t think we could compete with her talent.

We were no longer content with our homes, or their decor.

We lamented over our lack of funds to go on vacations or buy new clothes.

We began to hate our own bodies.

We became jealous over the opportunities their children have.

And that is when it happened, the pressure became too much.. and we blew up.

On the inside.

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  When these things happen, when the pressure grows to the point where we are going to blow…  someone is inevitably going to get caught in the wake of the explosion.

We will hate our selves, for the areas we failed.

We will hate our families, for what they are not.

We will hate others, for what they have … and we don’t.

Jealousy will poison our souls to the point that it will destroy us from the inside out, if we don’t spiritually check ourselves.

When these pressures surmount like this, we have only two ways to respond after we blow our tops.

  1.  We pull up our big girl panties, set our minds right, and find peace with the blessings that God has given us.

—-  OR —-

2. We begin to elevate ourselves, by tearing down others.

There are so many scriptures that point us toward peaceful living.  Blessed are the peacemakers (Matt 5:9),  Seek and Pursue Peace (Psalm 34:14), There is Future for those in Peace (Psalm 34:34), Live at Peace with Others (Romans 12:18)… these are just a few.  God wants us to be at PEACE in our lives, not fear… not anxiousness… not jealousy or discontent.   God wants us to LOVE in our lives, not hate… not condemn… not hurt or divide.  In fact, God’s word says that we will be KNOWN BY OUR LOVE (John 13:35).  When we LOVE, we not only have peace in our own lives, but we GIVE PEACE TO OTHERS.

God wants us to live in peace, and yet more often than not…  we go the other route.

Whether it is rooted in jealousy or a lack of confidence in ourselves (and our decisions or abilities), we begin to lash out.    It starts with the thoughts in our heads, begins to fall out of our mouths in our words, and then eventually felt in our actions and deeds.

We create competition, where there is none.  We become critical of their decisions and opportunities, instead of embracing our own unique blessings.  We try and bring others to our side, by gossiping about the person.  We try and force our opinions on others, not because we desire to see change in them for the better, but really to affirm that we are right.  Our thoughts become so self centered, that we can no longer see that person(s) in a positive light.   If we are not careful, it can begin to consume us.

If we are not at peace, we are at war… within our own heart and mind.  War is messy, and it has many casualties.  It will cost you happiness, contentment, and relationships.

 And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:7 (HCSB)

Do not be conformed to this world, choose to live in peace.  Be known for your love.

“Let’s lay down our junk, our wonky junk that messes up relationships and community and togetherness. We won’t let our own crazy stop us from affirming each other and banging the drum for our sisters.” – Jen Hatmaker, For the Love

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Learn more about Jen Hatmaker’s new book “For the Love” at:  http://forthelovebook.com/

Christian Love, I wonder…..

Recording Artist Tori Kelley was in NYC and went through a walk in Central Park.  She overheard music from under a bridge that caught her attention.  She went to check it out and came across this amazing trio.  She ended up doing an impromptu session with them, singing Hillsong’s “OCEAN”.

So moved by the trio, their talent, and their rendition of the song, she invited them to perform at her concert the next night.  Someone filmed it.  Hillsong heard about it, and posted it to their facebook page.

Honestly, I just love moments like this.  When we capture raw talent, mixed with someone who has been polished by industry.  There is beauty in that rawness.  I found tears streaming my face, as I listened.  His accent.  Her voice.  Their unique melody.  The simple strumming of her guitar.  They were in that moment, faceless … just four people praising God in secular places.

I was moved.  I went to the comment sections to share my appreciation & thoughts…. and that is when things derailed.

There are in fact two sets of comments.

The ones directly on Tori Kelley’s page where the video was originally posted.

Then the set of comments on Hillsong’s page where the video was shared.

The comments on Tori Kelley’s personal page were nothing but supportive, a secular artist took a chance to share a beautiful song, and it was loved.  Their were comments by people who knew the song already, for sure, but also a slew of people who had never heard it before.  It was so amazing to see such a positive response.  I sincerely searched for one single negative comment, and couldn’t find one.   Why did I search?

… because of the comments on Hillsong’s page… by Christians.

There was plenty of negativity there.

I’m not going to quote the comments exactly, but they could be summed up into the following paraphrases:

“I am disappointed that Hillsong would share this video, I can’t let my daughter watch it because of what Tori is wearing.”

I love Tori’s voice, but she should really dress a lot more modestly.”

“What would Tori wear if she knew Jesus was first in line to her concert?”

“Why are you wearing short shorts on stage to sing about Jesus?”

…. and those were just the nicer comments.  There were a few I just couldn’t bring myself to share here.

1 Corinthians 13

Love: The Superior Way

13 If I speak human or angelic languages
but do not have love,
I am a sounding gong or a clanging cymbal.
If I have the gift of prophecy
and understand all mysteries
and all knowledge,
and if I have all faith
so that I can move mountains
but do not have love, I am nothing.
And if I donate all my goods to feed the poor,
and if I give my body in order to boast[a]
but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind.
Love does not envy,
is not boastful, is not conceited,
does not act improperly,
is not selfish, is not provoked,
and does not keep a record of wrongs.
Love finds no joy in unrighteousness
but rejoices in the truth.
It bears all things, believes all things,
hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends.
But as for prophecies,
they will come to an end;
as for languages, they will cease;
as for knowledge, it will come to an end.
For we know in part,
and we prophesy in part.
10 But when the perfect comes,
the partial will come to an end.
11 When I was a child,
I spoke like a child,
I thought like a child,
I reasoned like a child.
When I became a man,
I put aside childish things.
12 For now we see indistinctly, as in a mirror,
but then face to face.
Now I know in part,
but then I will know fully,
as I am fully known.
13 Now these three remain:
faith, hope, and love.
But the greatest of these is love.

I’m going to be really transparent, and it’s going to be a bit uncomfortable for us all… I think.  But, I do believe that is where conversation begins.  I promise… it will all tie together in the end…..

My social media accounts are a HOT mess right now, and have been for some time.  I count myself lucky to have a diverse group of friends, with a diverse group of opinions.  I often find myself sitting in the middle… afraid to speak… because I really don’t know what to say.  I don’t feel informed enough, and I don’t feel qualified either.

My husband and I have never discounted a human being’s value or rights, based on their gender, color, or sexuality.  We have never allowed these external characteristics to cloud our view of their internal character.  I have certainly had friends over the years where we didn’t agree on every subject, and yes religious beliefs and politics included.  However that has never interfered with our ability to love one another, to care for each other in time of hurt and pain.  My children have learned this too, and their friends represent every color of the rainbow.  They see character, not color… or gender… or sexual preferences (which does begin to be an issue as your children enter teen years).   I observe their standards for friendship, and what I notice is their standards are based entirely off of character.  A friend who lies, is quickly out the door.  A friend who makes derogatory comments, doesn’t last.   A friend that causes hurt, to my child or others, is kept at a distance at minimum.

So…. my heart breaks every day as I read my social media.  Because, no matter how much we have impacted change within our children… there is a greater world out there that hasn’t changed all that much.  And then, I still  find myself stuck in the middle.  I really have no idea what it is like to be discriminated against, or to have a cultural history of deep seeded pain and torment.  I don’t understand what it feels like to be a part of socio-economic group that is still fighting for away to rise above or get out from repetitive history.  I have never considered an abortion, or fought for the right to get married.  I have never been so poor that I needed to steal or sell drugs to supplement the income my family needed.   With the exception of a time in my wilder youth, I also don’t know what it feels like for someone to naturally assume you are guilty, or up to no good, based solely on the color of my skin.  I’ve never been treated poorly by those in authority because of my skin color or my gender.

Because of this, when it comes to a lot of what I see on the news and in social media…. I still feel unqualified.  Even more so, when I watch those I call friends who ARE qualified can’t even agree.    When you are observing a situation in any part of the world, and those whom it does impact can’t seem to agree… how do we even begin to understand.  It’s easy to sit on the sidelines and suggest someone make different choices, to point toward those who perpetuate stereotypes, and think we can just simply say “STOP”.  As if it was that easy, to just stop being who you are… to just stop being a product of your environment… to just stop being everything you have ever known or recognized to be truth.

We can look at a smoker, or a heroin addict and have compassion and empathy, we understand how hard it is to stop those addictions.

But we have no compassion on cultural, society, economical, and even personal choices that have become rooted as truth for someone.  We think we can simply say “stop being who you are”, and that person can just shake it off and change over night without any further temptation or struggle.

I want to be clear that I am not attempting to debate any scriptural truths.  On certain subject, the scriptures are pretty clear.  Even when you look at it deeper, understanding the cultures and time period they were written.  We recognize that our worlds are not that much different, and biblical truths then … are biblical truths now.

What I am wanting to address though, is the behavior I have witnessed amongst those who are my brothers and sisters in Christ.  Some of the most vicious words, mocking tones, and just down right disrespect have flowed from some of their mouths recently.

But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them.
Matthew 15:18

When I saw the posts about the Tori Kelley/Hillsong video posts, I threw my hands up in the air.  I was angry.  Here we have a secular artist, sharing a song about God, in a secular setting… and some Christians had nothing better to comment.  Instead it was an opportunity to tear this artist down because of her attire.

Even though Christ invited us to come as we are.  He wouldn’t have told a prostitute to go home and change first.  He wouldn’t have told the leper to clean and bandage himself up.  He wouldn’t have told a woman to go home and get her husband.  Christ reached out to those who sought after him.  He responded to the woman who slipped her hand through a crowd and touched the hem of his garment.  He took the long way on certain trips, because He had a divine appointment on the way.  In fact, the harshest words Christ had… they were not for the unbelievers, or the ones who genuinely were willing to listen.  His harshest words were for the Pharisees, Saducees… the leaders who KNEW better.  The leaders who called everyone to live by a standard that they themselves didn’t live up to.  Leaders who twisted and added to the scriptures in order to get ahead in the community, to keep their status, and to make people do what they felt was right.

As I look at those who God reaches to, I see a God who loves the unlovable.  He forgives the unforgivable.  He changes lives and hearts, from the hardest stone.  Who calls to His people to come unto Him.  To cast their burdens, to drop their yokes, to be freed from their slavery, and to simply follow.

While I may not understand what it feels like to be be discriminated against, dodging literal and figurative bullets of hatred, there is something I do know….

I do know what it feels like to be loved, immeasurably by God.  By my husband.  By my children.  By my friends, who love me even when they don’t agree with me.

I do know what it feels like to be unloved, by critics and people who didn’t bother to get to know me as a person.

I also know what it feels like to be judged, criticized, unfairly treated, spoken down to, treated as less than, put down, berated, and ostracized by OTHER CHRISTIANS.

I my entire life history, the worst treatment I have ever gotten….  the people who have made me feel the worst about myself have been those I have shared a faith with.  And, I am watching this play out daily in my social media news feed.  Regardless of the situation…. Ferguson.  Charleston. Bruce/Caitlin Jenner.  Gay Marriage.  Abortion.   Heck, even on issues as nominal as practicing yoga, homeschooling, how we dress, if we breastfeed, the number of children we have, etc….

The greatest hate and judgement that I have see has been coming from a group of people that were told LOVE GOD, LOVE OTHERS.  It wasn’t a suggestion.  It wasn’t a direction to head toward.  It wasn’t defined to a specific group of people.

We were told LOVE GOD, LOVE OTHERS.

And, what I see is an awful amount of HATE toward others.

I’m not saying to LOVE means to accept or agree with everything.  Not at all, we can still hold to the tenants of our faith, disagree with people, the government, the world… but still LOVE.

My love for you defies what clothing you wear.  My love for you defies what movies you watch or music you listen to.  My love for you defies the choices you make in your life.  My love defies any earthly explanation because my love was defined by the ONE WHO LOVED SO MUCH HE GAVE HIS LIFE ME.

When I try to live up to that kind of love, it often means putting myself and my agendas on the back burner and simply loving others… for who they are, where they are.

Instead of feeling hate toward those who are facing the ugliness of a fallen world, that give into temptation, that are walking away from God, or simply trying to fly under the radar…. I feel pain and sympathy.  It’s not a joking matter, to make internet memes about and snarky jabs.  We shouldn’t be joking about this, or standing above it in righteous indignation.  We should be weeping, we should be praying, we should be clinging to God and asking for His forgiveness.

We are called to do our best to live at peace with everyone… yet we are not living at peace when we have a hard heart toward a group of people.  We are not living at peace when we try to force our beliefs upon others.  We are not living at peace when we think we can say anything we want because we are “speaking truth in love”.

Too often the words “truth in love” have been used to soften the blow of judgement.  “I love you to much to let you go on sinning, let me tell you what to do…. “.  As if I have any clue what any person should do?  Am I without sin?  NO!  As Paul said… “Of the sinners, I am the worst”.  Which is why over and over again we are reminded in the scriptures… he is who is free of sin can cast the first stone…. take care of the plank in your own eye before you worry about your brother’s splinter.  It is why we are given and entire chapter about LOVE!

We were not told just to love, but HOW TO LOVE.

And we are failing miserably at doing so.

The job of conviction has been taken, it’s the Holy Spirit’s job.  He does a good job at it too, because I’m convicted daily at how I fail.  And, considering the fact that I fail daily… I am not even qualified for the job.  It’s not up to me to convict anyone of their sin… or to change people’s hearts.

My job is to love.

  • Love God.  In doing so, my life and person may seem different to others.  Living as an example, striving in the daily to exemplify God in a way that makes others take notice, ask questions, and do the work He has called me to do.
  • Love Others.  In doing so, I will have opportunities to share God with others.  For those who believe, those opportunities will be in sharing life together, growing with each other in His will.  For those who don’t believe, I will stand as a light in the darkness… of hypocrisy and hate.  I will share that God loves all, always has and always will.  He died for all, not some.  I will show real love, showing Jesus in my life, and I will leave the rest up to God.  And, I as I love others, so will my children and their children.  I will create a legacy of love that will extend into the future.

When I die…. and people talk about me…. what I hope they say is:

Gena, she loved God and was always striving to know Him better.  She loved people, she had compassion for others, caring more about them than her own self.  She wasn’t perfect, never pretended to be.  She asked for grace, and gave a lot. She never held a grudge, always spoke with love, and trusted God to shape her life.

This week, my eyes were really opened to how little love some “Christians” show toward each other, let alone to the public.  It’s no wonder the world views us in such a negative way.  It’s easy to blame the world, it’s easy to write it off  because the scriptures tell us we will be persecuted and hated.  So, we use that as license to just say whatever we want carelessly.   The more I read from others, the more I wonder…. is that reason? Or, have we done it to ourselves?

Have we painted a view of Christianity that is unloving of anyone who doesn’t see things exactly as we do?  We don’t need the world to divide the church, or hate the church.  We are doing a pretty good job of doing that on our own.  We have more people leaving the church in every generation.  We are dividing ourselves up into groups and camps that believe  our understanding of the scriptures is better or “more accurate” than others.  We can’t comprehend that we may be wrong, or at least partially incorrect.  We stand on “biblical truths” that most of us couldn’t even defend with the scriptures, because we haven’t taken the time to read it for ourselves.  We stand on what others interpret, their opinions, their understanding.  We look for speakers and “authorities” who agree with our interpretation in order to validate our opinions.  Yet we never test them to the scriptures or look to challenge our beliefs.

We have crippled ourselves in regard to REAL knowledge, and then we believe we have the RIGHT to stand above anyone else and dictate how anyone should live “by faith”.

This isn’t the first time this has happened either, you’d know that if you read the scripture.  Biblical history is full of instances of believers who thought their way was right, who didn’t test the scriptures for themselves, who had hearts that were hardened toward other believers who didn’t do things “their way”.

WHICH IS EXACTLY WHY JESUS CAME!   We needed Christ’s ministry as much as we needed his sacrifice.  His death paid the penalty for our sin.  His life exposed truth, exemplified how we should live, love, pray, serve, and share.  His words spoke greatly of LOVE, and when Jesus spoke hard truths… he spoke them with love.  He wept for the people.  When was the last time you wept for the world?  He had compassion for the world,  “Forgive them, they know not what they do!”  —  This wasn’t just a prayer for those who crucified Jesus… it was a prayer for everyone, past … present… future.   Jesus was falsely accused, falsely imprisoned, falsely judged, falsely executed.  He could have called down the powers of heaven, wiped away everyone who stood and spoke against him, leaving only believers and followers.  Instead, he called into the heavens for forgiveness.

Asking for the forgiveness of a sin the people couldn’t even recognize as a sin.

I can’t speak for the rest of the world.  As for me, and my house, WE will serve the Lord.  We will live a life that shows a love for God and His Word.  We will live a life that loves others, has compassion for others, and in our love and compassion we will introduce people to Jesus.