Getting it SDRAWKCAB L4L.28

Grain in the field

Grain in the field (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The WORD

“Then Jesus said to [the Pharisees], ‘The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of the people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath.’” Mark 2:27 (New Living Translation)

“Then Jesus said to the Pharisees, ‘The Sabbath day was made to help people; they were not made to be ruled by the Sabbath day.’” (New Century Version)

God created. Land, sea, stars, moon, trees, flowers, animals, humans. After a survey of the work of His hands, He found it all to be very good. He heaved a holy sigh of contentment and took a day off – to appreciate His workmanship. To enjoy His surroundings. To reinvigorate His creative energy. To rest.

And He calls us to do the same.

The APP

Forever looking to discredit this Rabbi of the rabble, the Pharisees seem to have spent a good deal of time and energy following Jesus around. On this day, they watched as the motley crew of twelve snacked on ripe heads of grain while walking through a field. It was the Sabbath – God’s day of rest. Jesus and His disciples were traveling on foot, presumably outside of any town (hence the fields of grain), and yet here were those overly-zealous Pharisees, in hot pursuit. On the Sabbath. When they should have been at home, resting. (Shame on them.)

Dedicated to keeping the entire Law of God (and ensuring that others did, too), these legalistic purists managed to find fault with Jesus everywhere He went. On this day, they were themselves breaking the Sabbath in order to catch Jesus doing the same.

In their passion for the letter of the Law, these religion fanatics managed to do more damage than good in their time and culture, as evidenced by the great number of times that Jesus is found responding to their veiled threats and vile efforts to entrap Him on a violation of God’s commands. Somehow, what started as a faithful attempt to get it right ended up becoming a frightful adventure in missing the point, and here we find the Pharisees getting it BACKWARDS. Again.

We are each in danger of following suit with the Pharisees when we take God’s commands into our own hands. There really is a fine line between our best efforts to do life God’s way and trying to fit God’s ways into our best efforts at doing life. When the Pharisees set out to ‘keep’ the Sabbath, somehow it became an issue of ‘ownership’. Jesus follows up His words in Mark 2:27 with a comment that must have stung like salt in the open wounds of their injured egos – He said ‘The Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath day.’ (Mark 2:28)

Whether it’s the commands of God regarding Sabbath rest or any other teaching in scripture, the moment I presume to take ownership of it, I’m no different than the Pharisees. God’s words and God’s ways are just that… GOD’S. When I choose to follow and obey His teachings, I no more ‘own’ them than the Pharisees ‘owned’ the Sabbath. They literally chose to ‘keep’ the Sabbath for themselves, failing to realize that the invitation was never one of possession, but of participation with God in celebration of creativity and the work of our collective hands.

I set out to write this blog during the season of Lent, and this is our final week together. On the evening before each Literal 4 Lent post has been ‘due’, I have diligently completed the necessary steps to have L4L ready for you to read the next day. Until last night.

I was halfway into this text when it hit me that I am not so different than the Pharisees. God has given me a gift and an invitation to use it in His world – I love to write! I especially love to write about Him. But when my response to His invitation begins to look like ‘ownership’, I find myself getting it BACKWARDS. And I found myself in that place last night – convicted by Jesus’ Lordship over everything in my life.

So, instead of cranking out today’s blog on time, I yielded to the Lord of the Sabbath. This post, while ‘late’, has literally served to remind me that this work of mine isn’t mine, but His. The day I possess these gifts of God in my life is the day they become mine to manipulate – to withhold or dispense on my own schedule rather than God’s.

Today I choose to participate in the large work of the Lord rather than attempt to possess the small work I am capable of producing on my own.

Instead of getting it SDRAWKCAB – againI resolve not to be ruled by the interpretation of God’s Word, but by the literal Word Himself.

Click here to return to the Literal 4 Lent menu.

My Shiny Gold Card

Roasted coffee beans, the world's primary sour...

Image via Wikipedia

It came in the mail this week – my shiny Starbucks Gold Card.

Imprinted with my name, this card is more than a high class gift card. It allows me to get my favorite iced soy latte without paying 50 cents for the soy milk. It allows me to get a free refill when I just want straight, black coffee and can stick around to drink it. I can set it to auto-reload any time the balance drops below $10. And every 15th drink is free.

When I go to Starbucks.com I can see the beverages I’ve purchased represented by stars, being poured into my “cup” onscreen as I watch.

My friend Barbara got hers a couple of months ago. My friend Cyndie has had one forever, I think. I’m in good company as I order my beverage this morning, 100 miles from home, and I know that this card will connect me with another cup just like the one I’m holding now when I land thousands of miles away at the end of this day.

Predictable.

Consistent.

Familiar.

That’s the way I like my coffee.

And if I’m honest, that’s the way I like my life to pour out, too. No surprises. No variables. I want my non-fat chai to taste the same every time, and I want my day to go just as I’ve planned it, from sun-up to sun-down.

The organist at my church gave me a plaque for Christmas one year that says:

We Plan, God Laughs.

Even as I sit here drinking my controllable cup of java, I cling to the illusion of a life that can somehow be controlled by my own efforts.

After all, these are MY PLANS. MY AGENDA. MY ITINERARY. Right?

As a card-carrying Starbucks groupie, I am sold on what they’re selling.

But as a redeemed child of the Most High God I am still trying my hardest to change the menu. To make substitutions. To have things my way rather than to trust the Way of the One who called me. My tired human nature wants a road without speed bumps, a journey without detours, and membership in a club that requires little human interaction but comes with a sweet, personalized card.

All the privileges of membership.

No responsibility to anyone else but me.

“Do you love Me, Brita?”

Of course I love You!

“Then feed My sheep.”

Oh. Okay. Right after I order, God.

“Brita – do you love Me?”

Absolutely, God!

“Feed My sheep.”

I can do that. Do you think they want syrup or an extra shot in theirs?

“My child, my daughter, my little girl… Do you love Me?”

Yes, I DO, Father.

“Then it’s time. It’s time that you feed My sheep.”

  • Food, not coffee.
  • Love, not membership.
  • Life, not religion.
  • Truth, not agendas.

I put the card back in my wallet.

I throw the empty cup away.

By the power of the Spirit, I am answering the call.    

(Will you?)

It Gets Better… REALLY?

i choose love

Image by libby lynn via Flickr

My husband and I had just finished loading up my little Nissan Cube with groceries the other day when a man passing by commented to his friend as my husband got into the driver’s seat, not so much under his breath, “he’s gay.”

(Not the word he used.)

A friend told me about a church staff member who, in casual conversation, told her (a new church member) that their congregation was great, but she’d better watch out because “if they have their way, this church will be full of gays.”

(Not the word he used.)

 

Random strangers.

Specific church leaders.

Teenage bullies.

It’s hard to tell the difference sometimes.

 

The recent “It Gets Better” campaign on YouTube features celebrities and leaders, like President Obama and ELCA Bishop Mark Hanson, encouraging bullied teens with the sentiment that life for those who are different somehow “gets better” with age.

 REALLY?

As much as I want to believe the inspirational video clips, and as much as I would love to see teenagers turn the other cheek in hopes that one day the bullies will grow up and repent, I don’t have to look very far from my front doorstep to see that adults are setting the bar pretty low when it comes to respect for the dignity and humanity of others.

Sometimes teenage bullies just get taller, drive more expensive cars and buy houses in the suburbs.

What’s a follower of Jesus to do?

Some of us choose silence.

That’s what the “goats” in Jesus’ sorting sermon did. It’s not that they were the bullies, but that they did nothing (Matthew 25:41-46):

“Then he will turn to the “goats,” the ones on his left, and say, ‘Get out, worthless goats! You’re good for nothing but the fires of hell. And why? Because – I was hungry and you gave me no meal. I was thirsty and you gave me no drink. I was homeless and you gave me no bed. I was shivering and you gave me no clothes. Sick and in prison, and you never visited.’

Then these goats are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or homeless or shivering or sick or in prison and didn’t help?’

He will answer them. ‘I’m telling the solemn truth. Whenever you failed to do one of these things to someone who was being overlooked or ignored, that was me – you failed to do it to me.’”

Some of us choose a side.

That’s what the apostles in the early church did when Peter extended the grace of God to the unclean outsiders, sharing the Gospel with them and watching as the Holy Spirit showed up (Acts 11:1-3):

“The news traveled fast and in no time the leaders and friends back in Jerusalem heard about it – heard that the non-Jewish “outsiders” were now “in.” When Peter got back to Jerusalem, some of his old associates, concerned about circumcision, called him on the carpet: “What do you think you’re doing rubbing shoulders with that crowd, eating what is prohibited and ruining our good name?”

Some of us have no choice.

That’s what happens when a believer sells out to the indwelling Spirit of God. The way that seems right to me only leads to death (Proverbs 16:25 and 14:12), but Jesus has made it abundantly clear which way IS RIGHT for me:

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37-40

When it comes right down to it, there’s no denying that for Jesus, it’s all about LOVE. When I follow Jesus, it follows that the defining characteristic of my every word and action will be…

Love for my God.

Love for my family.

Love for my friends.

Love for the rude and insulting.

Love for the cruel and the angry.

Love for the overlooked and ignored.

Love for the outsider.

Maybe it doesn’t really get better for those of us who are different, who don’t fit in. But maybe it can seem better over time, because the more we’re exposed to the fiery darts of the haters, the thicker our skin becomes. The lower our expectations are. The less surprised we allow ourselves to be by the looks and the whispers and the fingers that point.

Maybe it’s time we stop blaming teenagers for the failure of our families, our churches, our communities and our world to set the standard of care for others at least as high as the standard of care we expect for ourselves.

The words of Isaiah chapter 61 scream to be heard by Christians whose fingers have been stuck in their ears far too long:

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners…”

As  followers of the One who was bullied to death, may we also rise again, pick up our crosses and shoulder the burden of our loving God:

“… to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion – to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.”

Church! We can do better than “It Gets Better.” We can be more than just a talking head.

Bullies may wield a big stick and words intended to wound, but isn’t that what we’ve come to expect from this world? I’m tired of cowering in the shadows, afraid of catching the bully’s eye!

You may choose silence.

You may choose to pick a side.

But from this day forward, I MUST CHOOSE LOVE.

Thinking Outside the (Shoe) Box

Every now and then, we miss the point.

Every now and then, we get too focused on the shoes and we simply miss the point.

After my first blog post, just over one week ago, I ran into a friend who had read “My Pink Shoes” and had left an amazingly encouraging comment in response.

And the first thing she did was look down at my feet. I was wearing black flip flops.

She was disappointed – I could see it in her eyes – and I was at once both amused and dismayed.

Cute (I thought)!

She read my blog (I smiled)!

She connected with the shoes (I knew she would)!

 

But… the shoes aren’t the point (just the touch-point)!

The shoes are the symbol (not the substance)!

What have I done (did I mislead her)?

I felt a wave of passion rise up from within, and as it intensified and reached my own ears, I heard its silent scream:

IT ISN’T ALL ABOUT THE SHOES!

But who are we trying to kid? At least a few of you are looking at my very pink shoes, and you’re thinking that for SOME, Christianity is an accessory. WE choose when to “wear” it and we have a box just the right size to pack it into when we “take it off.”

And YOU’RE RIGHT – this happens. Proof is everywhere. All you need to do is look around.

Accessorizing with the Christian faith, however, is a dangerous thing to do.

Dressing up and dressing down, according to how we feel or how we want to look, paints a pretty clear picture of who’s in charge of this closet. Picking and choosing which qualities to “wear” today may be superficially effective – you might convince a few onlookers that you’re the real thing, but in the eyes of God you are, as my children say, nothing but a “wanna-be.” 

This is evident in the findings of a recent study by the Barna Group, which indicated that “there is little significant difference between evangelical Christians and society.”

Apparently too many professing Christians are leaving their Spirit-breathed oddness in the shoe box these days, putting the community of faith at risk of “losing our distinctive identity as strangers and aliens in the world.” (Karen Mains, Soul Alert)

For this believer, the time has come to think outside the shoe box!

Opting to walk away from the need to choose my own spiritual “accessories,” I open up my life to the possibility that what God has in store for me to put on today may not even FIT into a box at all!

The spiritual equivalent of wearing my pink shoes all day, everyday, is to yield to the character of the living, active Spirit of God who makes His home inside plain old, little old, unimpressive ME.

I hope you run into me soon, my friends, and when you do, please don’t bother with my feetLOOK UP!

I’ll be wearing my pink shoes in my heart, where they most assuredly belong.