Want What You’ve Got! (weekend)

Bubbles and shell

Bubbles and shell (Photo credit: Fellowship of the Rich)

This weekend I have the unique privilege of spending time with a family of four, in preparation for their baptisms. Do you remember your baptism?

I don’t. I was tiny, judging from the size of the baptismal gown that has been worn by many a baby in our family’s faith tradition. Many of us share this memory-gap when it comes to our initiation into God’s family, coming from traditions with deep roots and long histories.

The language I’ve inherited for these baptism classes I teach is kind of fun – they’re called Splash classes. Usually I meet with the parents of a baby or young child, discussing with them the connection between water and Spirit, and talking through what they can expect on baptism day. We light a candle, share stories from our experiences with the sacrament, and we talk about what it means to be a member of God’s family – at any age.

One of the gifts that is given to each family is a page-full of ideas for living out their baptism as believers in a dry and thirsty land. These suggestions for walking wet as a family include things like praying together at mealtimes and bedtime, listening to scripture songs in the car, and modeling a life of God-seeking for others by “getting caught” reading your Bible and praying at home.

Walking wet means living out a whole slew of potentially trite sayings – things like: Practicing what you preach. Walking the talk. More being ‘caught’ than taught.

Walking wet means keeping your cup full (vs half-anything) so that there’s enough Living Water in your life to splash around in. To splash on others. To have some fun with!

I don’t know your story. I don’t know whether you were sprinkled as an infant, dunked as a grown-up, or whether you’ve been splashed on by the Spirit in some equally supernatural way.

This weekend, will you consider what it means to Want What You’ve Got in terms of Water supply?

If you’ve been baptized, will you take time to remember and thank God for your faithful family members and the nudge of the Spirit that brought you to the river’s edge?

If you’ve been involved with God’s family but haven’t yet taken the plunge, will you consider joining many who, on Easter, will take their first dip in God’s sea of forgiveness and forgetfulness on this grace-filled day?

And if you’re dry and dehydrated and seek something holy to quench your thirst, will you come to the Water for something much, much better than the temporary beverage this world is trying to sell?

Whether it’s a puddle or a birdbath, a pond or a wave, a squirt gun or a water balloon… let’s make a Spirit-splash and Want What We’ve Got today!

Want What You’ve Got! (antidisestablishmentarianism)

Photo of Texas Instruments Speak & Spell toy, ...My brother was very young when he mastered the Speak & Spell.

I don’t mean that he learned how to use it… I mean that he knew how to spell every word the red box could pronounce. In search of a challenge, at a ridiculously tender age, he moved on to the longest word in the English dictionary: antidisestablishmentarianism.

My little brother was the recipient of many an astonished expression from my teenage friends as he nonchalantly rattled off the spelling of this word that most of us had never even heard used in a sentence. Was his interest in spelling an attention-getter? Yes. But it wasn’t only that. Today my little brother is among the most brilliant computer-minds that I know. What began as a quirky childhood thing was actually a foreshadowing of the unique and talented man he has become.

I have a friend at church who suffered a severe brain injury at age twelve. Now in her thirties, this lively sister in Christ is active in our church family and around the community we live in. Always equipped with a joke to tell, my friend’s pre-teen sense of humor has become her MO and people look forward to a dose of her quirky perspective as expressed through her fun and often mischievous way with words.

Many of us have, during a season of our lives, been known for something in our personality or interests that seems unusual to others.

In high school, my friends called me McBrita (because of my love for Egg McMuffins and the fact that I often made the one-block trek to the Golden Arches between morning classes).

Guys at the gym regularly stop my husband to ask about his leg routine as they suffer calf-envy over his genetically gifted limbs.

A little guy that I know brings his service folder home every Sunday so that during the week he can use a dictionary to look up the words he doesn’t know yet.

A friend of mine prays out loud as she walks between her home and the grocery store (after receiving a few strange looks, she has found that holding a cell phone to her ear serves as prayer-camouflage when needed).

Sometimes our unusual tendencies and talents bring welcome attention.

Sometimes the unwanted attention we receive because of our novelty makes us want to crawl into a dark corner and refuse to come out until July.

The things about us that seem abnormal to the world can cause us to feel so different from others that we respond by trying to squish the clay of our lives into the status quo molds of our culture so that we can fit in. So that we won’t draw attention. So that we can just look like and live like everyone else.

Paul talks about this tendency in Romans chapter 12:2-3 (ERV):

“Don’t change yourselves to be like the people of this world, but let God change you inside with a new way of thinking. Then you will be able to understand and accept what God wants for you… You must see yourself just as you are.”

It takes courage for us to see ourselves just as we are, but until we are willing to do just that, understanding and acceptance will always be out of reach.

Today, let’s stop trying to make our bodies and minds and ideas and interests look like those of the people around us. When it comes to our own peculiarities and penchants, there has never been a better time to Want What We’ve Got!

Daily Questions: In what ways do you see yourself as quirky? Do your peculiarities draw the attention of others (or are you flying beneath the radar most of the time)? How might God be using – or planning to use – your unique self in His work in this world? Are you willing to embrace your inner geek and let your true colors transform you from template-made to Spirit-crafted?

Christmas in July (faithful)

I stood at the Starbucks counter last December, chatting with one of the friendly baristas. I asked about her Christmas plans, to which she responded that she doesn’t celebrate Christmas.

It’s too commercialized she said.

It isn’t that she doesn’t believe in God’s heartbeat taking human form in Jesus because she does.

It’s just that society has missed the point and made something holy into something for profit and that bothers her.

And it bothers her enough to opt out of Christmas.

It bothers me, too! But what if, instead of asking ourselves how we might dismiss the season altogether, there was a better question for followers of Jesus to ask:

How can we faithfully remember and rejoice in this God who entered our mess and engaged us where we were – our God who Himself didn’t opt out just because we were missing the point?

It may be July 31st, but there are still months to go before the Christmas celebrations begin!

Choose now to faithfully celebrate Jesus – not to lament the way others are missing the point.

Fix your focus on the arrival of the Christ child and take a different route the manger this year.

Choose a theme for this year’s celebrations and embrace the ideas that theme produces when it comes to gatherings and gifting.

Have some fun with it! Make people smile! There are far too many Grinches and Scrooges in the world already – let’s choose to bring glory to God!

Give a piece of yourself to your loved ones this year.

Give gifts that support a cause and multiply the blessing.

Put your creativity to work now – while there is still time to follow through.

Becoming a victim of the business of Christmas is a choicechoose wisely, my friends!

Merry Christmas!

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Christmas in July (create)

Hand Prints

Hand Prints (Photo credit: chrispwalsh)

With time on your side and a few weeks of summer left on the calendar, creating a meaning-rich Christmas is still well within the realm of possibility! 

God’s creative genius has been passed along to each of us in a variety of ways. This Christmas, why not embrace these holy genesthe image and energy of God in YOU – by creating presents that reflect His presence?!

Hand-Bags

One year my family created Hammit Hand-Bags for everyone on our gift list. We chose a suitable bag for each person – canvas totes, backpacks, laundry bags, camera bags – and we adorned each one with our family member’s handprints. You might add the names belonging to each set of handprints, or consider embellishing with gems and ribbon to represent jewelry (rings, bracelets). Many family members used these bags for years as their library book totes, picnic or pool bags, etc.

Hollow Ornament Gifts

For many years we hung a ball-shaped ornament on our tree that was hollow inside. It sort of resembled an Easter egg, though it was larger and more sturdy and could be tightly closed. Consider crafting such an ornament for the families on your list, encouraging them to put something inside of it each year:

  • Choose one family memory from the current Christmas and write it down, then fold it up and place the paper inside. Add another one next year! Within only a few years’ time you will have a family tradition and stories to tell around the tree!
  • List the names of those who celebrate Christmas with you each year. Keep the list in the ornament and add names each December. This would be especially appropriate for families who welcome neighbors and friends at their holiday gatherings.
  • Encourage each family member to write a Christmas wish or prayer. Save these inside and pray or revisit them year after year.
  • Put the names of each Christmas guest and your family members on separate papers inside the ornament. On Christmas morning, have each person pick a name! This is the person you will pray for in the coming year… the gift of prayer!

Rather than a hollow ornament, a Christmas Box could work for these ideas as well. You might buy plain boxes at a craft store and decorate them, or search local thrift stores for unique and unusual designs!

Photo Gifts

Not everyone is crafty… Thank goodness for digital cameras and Vistaprint! Companies like Vistaprint allow you to put your photos to work as gifts – in many forms. Key chains, t-shirts, ball caps, greeting cards, blankets & tote bags are just a few of the items that can be dressed-up with your photographs and given as gifts to your loved ones.

Check out the Costco or Sam’s Club websites (memberships required), or simply do a web search for custom photo gifts – you’ll have more ideas than you can implement! Thrifty shoppers may want to keep an eye on Groupon or Living Social for vouchers toward photo gift purchases (I regularly see $70 vouchers for Vistaprint product for ridiculously low prices – sometimes as low as $17).

Blessing Bags

One way to expand your Christmas cheer and invite others into the celebration of Jesus’ birth is to create an assortment of Blessing Bags to give away. These can be as simple as a gallon sized Ziploc bag or inexpensive canvas tote, filled with items that those you run into on the streets around town may need:

  • A bottle of water
  • Fast food gift certificates
  • Small snack packs (granola bar, crackers, nuts)
  • Tissues
  • Small toiletry items
  • Anything else your family can come up with!

Decorate the bags, enclose a Christmas card from your family, and keep a supply of Blessing Bags in your car throughout the month of December, giving them away as you are inspired to do so!

Secret Angels

A twist on the Blessing Bags would be to pre-determine whom you wish to bless with each bag, fill them accordingly, then leave the bag on your recipient’s doorstep or desktop  – for a surprise discovery!

Wrap It Up!

One of my happiest Christmas memories consists of a roll of butcher paper, some sponges and tempera paint, and our driveway on a warm November day. In one afternoon, my family made personalized wrapping paper which was used to cover all of the gifts we gave that year! A roll of butcher paper and some creativity is all you need to make wrapping paper that communicates your joy to everyone on your gift list.

  • Choose a medium (paint, markers, crayons).
  • Choose a color scheme.
  • Choose a design (shaped sponges, hand or foot prints, lyrics from Christmas carols, words from Scripture, or have each family member choose a trademark word or design and place their mark all over the wrap).

I had never seen so many smiles at the sight of wrapped gifts before the year we made our own family gift wrap!

Christmas in July (theme)

Pile of gorgeous gifts

 

If you really want to make some Christmas memories, pick a theme!

There are lots of reasons that gift-giving holds such great appeal for us, and of course not all of them are particularly redeeming. Retail bullying, the noose of empty tradition and multiple applications of guilt often drive our gifting choices, but there is another way to frame it…

Simply put: Gift giving can be fun!

When believers choose to focus on Jesus at Christmas, our giving of gifts and sharing of life take on deeper meaning than the contents of the packages underneath our tree. A Christ-centered Christmas ought to free us up to celebrate – we are God’s kids, after all! – and to generously spread our family’s joy in any way the Spirit moves. Including the giving of gifts to the people we love.

Not only will theming your gifts make shopping less tedious and potentially less costly, but the memories created as your gifts are opened and shared will build community and connection between friends and family in a way you’ve not experienced before.

Choose a theme that makes you smile, laugh or gets those creative juices flowing!

Choose a theme that says something about you – your focus for this Christmas, your values and causes, the way you like to spend your money and your time.

Beginning now – with months in front of you to git ‘r done – the options really are (almost) endless!

Think brainstorm as you make your way through the ideas that will be rolled out during this Christmas in July! And please let us in on your own gift-giving themes by using the reply option below each future post!

 

 

 

Discover. Uncover. Recover. Spiritual Disciplines for the Expectant

Glass icicle, through a magnifying glass

Glass icicle, through a magnifying glass (Photo credit: miletbaker)

Contrary to popular belief and common practice, shopping is not a spiritual discipline.

Even if this comes as no great surprise to you, in this season of commerce (even in Christian circles) what we DO tends to outweigh what we SAY about Christmas. We may SAY that it’s all about Jesus – His birth, the Incarnation, the arrival of God on the scene – but what we DO when we spend our precious time and resources at the mall sends a crystal clear message to a world full of skeptics…

Believers are no different than everybody else.

Our unremarkable witness to heaven’s advent here on earth has me concerned today (maybe because I shop-till-I-drop with the best of ’em), yet I’m confident that I am not alone in yearning for a different way to celebrate Christmas this year. It may be December 11th, but it’s not too late – it’s NEVER too late! – for us to steep ourselves in the very real presence of God (vs. the very real distractions of the season).

For those of us who are expecting MUCH of this holiday – and of every day during which we choose to celebrate Emmanuel – I’d like to propose the adoption of three spiritual disciplines. Three ways to keep our focus on the One who is God EVERY DAY – 365/24/7. Three ways to prop open the book of our lives for the Author’s eyes to see. No more cover-ups. No more propaganda. No more societal sell-outs.

Three Spiritual Disciplines for the Expectant. Today we consider the first of these:

DISCOVER.

The spiritually expectant are watching for God to show up. Looking for signs of His presence. Fully expecting to SEE HIM here! The spiritual discipline of DISCOVER is for seekers only, requiring not only that we pay attention and both recognize and celebrate the times and places where God is with us, but that we actively seek Him out. In the world around us, yes, but also in His Word.

Those of us who wish to DISCOVER the realities of God are invited to sink ourselves into the pages of scripture, where God can ALWAYS be seen and heard!

  • Choose a word to focus on for the rest of Advent. Make it something that matters to you right now. Need help? Think power, light, promise or energy.
  • Look up the definition of your word in a dictionary and write it down. Be sure to include any synonyms or antonyms for your chosen word.
  • Open a concordance (or check out the online study tools at blueletterbible.org) and look up your chosen word. Write down every scripture reference that contains that word. How about your synonyms? Look those up in the concordance as well, and add those references to your list of scripture texts.
  • Over the next couple of weeks, look up all of the scripture references you’ve identified. Read each one, then read it again. Write down the ones that trigger questions or thoughts or ‘aha’ moments. Make notes about these trigger texts as you read and meditate on them throughout the day.
  • As you read to DISCOVER, ask yourself questions like these:
  1. How is my understanding of the word I’ve chosen changing or growing as I study it?
  2. How can this new understanding of my chosen word strengthen my faith journey?
  3. What can I do in response to this new understanding of my word/God’s Word?

Let’s choose to DISCOVER new meaning and create new energy for Advent! I hope you’ll take time to share your word with me (mine, in case you were wondering, is: buy). And be sure to check back on Friday for the second Spiritual Discipline for the Expectant: UNCOVER.

Until then Expect MUCH!

(holy) SPIT

A deaf man with a speech impediment was brought to him, and the people begged Jesus to lay his hands on the man to heal him. Jesus led him away from the crowd so they could be alone. He put his fingers into the man’s ears. Then, spitting on his own fingers, he touched the man’s tongue. Looking up to heaven, he sighed and said, “Ephphatha,” which means, “Be opened!” Instantly the man could hear perfectly, and his tongue was freed so he could speak plainly! Jesus told the crowd not to tell anyone, but the more he told them not to, the more they spread the news. They were completely amazed and said again and again, “Everything he does is wonderful. He even makes the deaf to hear and gives speech to those who cannot speak.” ” Mark 7:32-37 (NLT)

Really – if there’s an apt title for this message – it’s this: (holy) SPIT.

Does that offend you? Does it make you uncomfortable? Are you bristling or shifting in your seat right now? I wonder why we react in such a way when the thing that God does, according to the scriptures, is take the raw material of our lives and make it HOLY.

Like Jesus’ holy spit.

Let’s not waste our time here today, okay? Let’s not let some words go in one ear and out the other. And let’s not waste this perfectly wonderful object lesson – Jesus’ use of spit – when what God has to teach us is as close as the moisture in our mouths.

Four things stand out to me, about God, after reading this story of Jesus’ healing of the deaf mute…

God Says it, then He does it.

God does what He says – HIS WORD IS ACTION! Jesus SAID to the deaf mute ‘BE OPENED’ and it was SO. No empty promises. No passive, pious ‘I’ll pray for you’. Jesus literally puts His money WHERE HIS MOUTH IS, and the result is HEALING and RESTORATION! So much so that the people around Him say things like:

“He’s done it all – and done it well!” (NOT – “He says such nice things!” or “He’s so smart. He knows so much!”)

Scripture is jam-packed-FULL of ACTION WORDS when it comes to the promises of God. To ward off any doubt, let’s do a quick re-cap:

God made.

He defends, feeds, frees and gives.

He lifts up, loves and protects.

He takes the side of, upholds, watches over and sustains.

He listens to and lays hands on.

He casts out and makes short work of demons, illness and fear.

He SAYS it, and then He makes it SO. That’s the S.

People are His Plan!

Look around you. What do you see? WHO do you see? Do you SEE GOD? More likely than not, you only see PEOPLE. And people, WE are God’s PLAN of ACTION! When we read Isaiah 35:4 and hear the promise “GOD IS HERE!” we can’t help but look around…

And some of us, when we look around expecting to see God, are disappointed. All we see are a bunch of broken, messed up, unholy people with issues at least as great as our own. Let’s be honest – we’re not much to look at, even in our Sunday best, even on our very best day – are we?

But God’s Plan to ACT in this world doesn’t just ‘include’ us – it RELIES on us, too! Listen to James 2:14-17 (the Message):

“Dear friends, do you think you’ll get anywhere in this if you learn all the right WORDS but never DO anything? Does merely TALKING about our faith indicate that a person really HAS it? For instance, you come upon an old friend dressed in rags and half-starved, and (you) say, “Good morning, friend! Be clothed in Christ! Be filled with the Holy Spirit! (I’ll pray for you!)” and walk off without providing so much as a coat or a cup of soup – where does that get you? Isn’t it obvious that God-talk without God-ACTS is outrageous NONSENSE?” [caps & emphasis mine]

It’s true that God is already working in the world all around us – after all, HE IS HERE! But He is calling you and me to JOIN HIM! To get in the game! To stop wasting time on our little, human projects and join Him in HIS Kingdom-work – work that CHANGES things and makes a LASTING impact on the world! God is calling you and me to ACTION that:

Defends, feeds, lifts up and upholds.

He’s calling us to sustain, watch over, free and protect.

God is looking for givers, lovers and those who will take the side of others who are otherwise alone.

Actions that, yes, HE IS ALREADY DOING and will continue to do – with or without our participation. But people, PEOPLE ARE HIS PLAN! That’s the P.

Incarnation

Incarnation is that churchified word that simply means God-lives-here. In Christian theology, we believe the incarnation to be the embodiment of God the Father in the human form of God the Son… Jesus. But it doesn’t stop there!

God’s Plan is People, and He has made it possible for you and me to BE the Incarnation of Jesus through His living and active Spirit! God moves in to you and me and we become people who embody IN THE FLESH the PERSON of God, the Holy Spirit! This includes His personality, His power and His priorities.

When our words are just words, they make little difference to others and we have little impact on the world. It’s like Psalm 146:3-4 says: ‘Mere humans don’t have what it takes – when they die, their projects die with them.’ It’s not just ANY act/action that God is after – His ‘capital P’ Plan isn’t to sit back and watch while we each make our own ‘little p’ plans! He knows that our actions, when done apart from His Word and His Spirit, are only temporary, weak, fruitless, even impotent acts that will be buried with us when this short life is through.

God is trying to tell us today that WITHOUT THE WORD, our words are as powerful as SPIT. Yuck. Gross.

Why else would the world look at Christians and Christianity with such skepticism and negativity? The world is watching us, and when they see mere humans operating without the Word and without the Spirit, what they see is the outrageous nonsense of God-talk without God-acts.

Jesus’ words to the deaf mute are a powerful reminder that we must remain open! The degree to which we are open to this mystery of Incarnation is the degree to which we participate in God’s Plan! But you and I know from painful trial and error that human effort isn’t enough to bring about the Incarnation – what we need is a:

Transfusion of grace from God!

I had some bloodwork done recently. Often when I have blood drawn, the phlebotomist has trouble finding a good vein (fortunately it only took one stick this time). But think about it… maybe the pricks and pokes you’re feeling in your life right now are the work of the Savior, who is set on finding a good vein in you so that He can begin the life-saving TRANSFUSION of grace and forgiveness that you so desperately need.

It is only by God’s free-flowing, undeserved grace that we can be filled with the living, active Word Himself – the Word that Speaks and makes it So – the S!

And only when we’ve been connected to that flow will we be able to live into God’s Plan as God’s People – His Plan to act in ways that will heal and restore and include all people – the P!

He knows that we can’t do it on our own – God knows our track record, both personally and corporately. He’s seen our attempts and He’s watched our failures. Only Jesus Christ, alive in us – the Incarnation – makes it possible for us to participate in God’s Plan – the I!

So, why are we willing to settle for knowing the ‘right words’ but failing to live them? That’s DEAD faith, people! And when we’re dying, what we need is something we can’t supply for ourselves: we need a TRANSFUSION of life-saving, life-giving proportions! To come ALIVE with Christ, we desperately need the GRACE of God, so…

Hang in there! Let him find a good vein! Transfusion – that’s the T!

And what we’re left with is SPIT.

Saliva. We’ve all got it, right? Basic, raw material.

Yet God can take the most raw material – the least spiritual offering we’ve got – and He can make it holy. Jesus proved it – with His spit.

It doesn’t take anything special on your part, because the power comes from the Spirit of God, ALIVE in His Word! And it is Spirit-infused actions that will change the world, no matter how small they may seem to you and me.

Let God take what little you have – even if all you have to give is the moisture in your mouth – and let Him make it a blessing to others!

Share some (holy) SPIT with the last, the lost and the least – the poor, the widow, the orphan, the grieving, the outsider, the alien, the stranger, the needy, the sick, the addict, that teenager… you can fill in the blanks. YOU KNOW THE WORDS.

Now LIVE THEM.

the SO WHAT? NOW WHAT? Bible Study

The study translation Bible 2009

Image via Wikipedia

I’ve been around the block.

When it comes to studying the Bible, I’ve made my way through this method and that format, using these tools and those materials. I’ve studied with the help of this translation and that paraphrase. I’ve considered his detailed commentary and her in-depth workbook

After all, if you’re like me and you take God’s Word seriously, you’ll go around the block again and again for even a GLIMPSE of His truth in those sacred pages.

I’m beginning to wonder, though, if all of our methods for studying and approaching the scriptures can’t be summed up in two painfully simple (but potentially loaded) questions:

SO WHAT?

NOW WHAT?

SO WHAT? I’ve just read this story in the Bible – SO WHAT? What’s the big deal? What difference does it make? Why does it matter that Jesus said this (or that David did that)? Seriously – what’s the big whoop?

How many times have you read a biblical text and failed to think about the reason those words were written? How often do you open and close your Bible without pausing to consider why that passage on this day?

‘SO WHAT?’ is an invitation to dig down to the crux of the matter, to the root of the text, deep into the heart of a God whose words are important enough to have endured thousands of years in order to be spoken into your life today. It may not be the most scholarly approach to the study of God’s words, but ‘SO WHAT?’ cuts through the Christian-ese and pretense to usher you into an honest assessment of the impact of scripture on a very real YOU in a very real world. If we cannot figure out the ‘SO WHAT?’ there is simply no point in moving forward to the ‘NOW WHAT?’

Yet it is the ‘NOW WHAT?’ that separates the spiritual tweens from the wise and devoted gray-hairs in the Kingdom of God! It’s the discipline of asking God to move you from the classroom of Bible study into the internship of “doing the Word” (James 1:22) that determines whether your efforts at learning will ultimately bear fruit or die fruitless – its growth tragically stunted inside of your head.

NOW WHAT? Asks the question that the faint of heart will avoid at all costs.

NOW WHAT? Forces the hand to be played and the play to be made.

NOW WHAT? Puts skin on the bones of a passive faith, bringing Jesus to life again and again in our love-starved, faith-starved world.

NOW WHAT?’ is the question that burns Spirit-fire within the believer whose curiosity cannot be quenched. For if we faithfully ask the question, we have no choice but to join the Author in His work as it is being written on the pages of the lives all around us.

To ask ‘NOW WHAT?’ is to drink deeply of the living water offered by the Savior, and then to take buckets of that very same Water to dehydrated souls, wherever they live.

No study of the Bible is complete without the ‘NOW WHAT?’

Because the Word of God is not passive, but ALIVE with the power of the resurrected Christ! ACTIVE with the movement of the living Spirit of God!

The SO WHAT? NOW WHAT? Bible Study will cramp your style, make you look like a fool, get underneath your skin and make you squirm.

Doesn’t that sound GREAT?! I’m in!

Now what?

Salty Friends L4L.24

Salt shaker, transparent background

The WORD

“Everyone’s going through a refining fire sooner or later, but you’ll be well-preserved, protected from the eternal flames. Be preservatives yourselves. Preserve the peace.” Mark 9:49-50 (The Message)

‘Preservatives’ have the ability to protect from decay or spoilage. Another word for preservative is stabilizer

“Everyone will be purified by fire as a sacrifice is purified by salt. Salt is good; but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have the salt of friendship among yourselves, and live in peace with one another.” (Good News Translation)

When we preserve something, we make sure that it lasts. We protect it from anything that might cause its current quality or condition to deteriorate. We maintain it.

Salt is a great preservative, as long as it remains… salty.

Friendship is a great preservative, as long as it remains… salty.

The APP

Jesus’ words here can be boiled down to two simple yet profound directives:

  1. Be salty.
  2. Practice saltiness.

Salt is, by its very nature, generous. It is generous in the sense that its very purpose is to lend its best qualities to make something else, well… better.

But at the same time, salt is… salt. It doesn’t vary much from shaker to shaker. All of it basically looks the same. All of it basically acts in the same ways when used. There just aren’t too many variations on salt.

And the thing about salt is that it just isn’t that special on its own. Salt is meant to complement flavors that already exist! The value of salt is negligible when it sits in isolation – in the shaker, on the counter, by itself. Salt does its best work in combination, and it is only a commodity when it is put to good use.

Salt cannot fulfill its purpose unless it comes into contact with food. There’s nothing to protect, enhance or preserve inside the salt shaker. There’s only salt. And hoarding salt is utterly pointless, since its only merit is the effect it has on something else.

Judicious salting is critical, however. Too much salt can ruin a meal, which is why we salt to taste. We can carefully measure, as if following a recipe in a cookbook, which is actually a good way to get used to knowing how much salt to use. But salting well is also an art form; something to aspire to, like cooking by instinct or using recipes as suggestions rather than rules.

Whichever way we opt to salt, it’s important to remember not to lay it on too thick.

All of this wisdom applies just as readily to those of us who inhabit holy salt shakers in the Kingdom of God!

Salty people are, by their very nature, generous people. They are generous in the sense that their very purpose is to lend their best qualities to make others, well… better.

But at the same time, people are people. We don’t vary all that much from house to house or church to church. Most of us look, in basic ways, the same. Most of us act in basically the same ways. There just aren’t too many variations on people.

And the thing about you and me is that, according to Jesus, we just aren’t that special on our own. Salty people are meant to complement the variety and flavors of humanity that already exist in the world!

The value of salty people is negligible when we sit in isolation – in the church pew, in our Bible study, by ourselves. Salty people do their best work in community, and we are of greatest value when our qualities are put to good use.

Salty people cannot fulfill our purpose unless we come into contact with others. There’s nothing to protect, enhance or preserve inside our own salt shaker’s walls. There’s only more salt. And hoarding salt by only spending time with other salty people is utterly pointless, since our only merit is the effect our salt can have to bring out the flavor in someone else.

Judicious salting is critical, however. Too much salt can ruin a friendship, which is why we salt to taste. And we take lessons from the Chef Himself, whose artistic and instinctual cooking sets the example by which we aspire to live.

And it’s every bit as important with people as with food to remember not to lay it on too thick. A little bit of salt goes a long way toward making a tasty masterpiece, whether our environment is the kitchen or the community!

When people are salty, their presence has a sort of stabilizing effect on those around them.

Salty people make some things last and keep others from deteriorating or falling into a state of decay. Things like attitudes. Perspectives. And friendships.

When my saltiness is showing, everything and everyone I touch stand to benefit from the fact that I am there.

Not because the world is that bad and I am that good.

It’s just that we are better together.

Interested in learning MORE about SALT?!
Click here for information about a SALTY! Retreat for women!

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Heartitude L4L.15

figs on tree

The WORD

“A healthy tree does not bear bad fruit, nor does a poor tree bear good fruit. Every tree is known by the fruit it bears; you do not pick figs from thorn bushes or gather grapes from bramble bushes. A good person brings good out of the treasure of good things in his heart; a bad person brings bad out of his treasure of bad things. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” Luke 6:43-45 (Good News Translation)

Let’s hear this Word a second time, from the New Living Translation:

“A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. A tree is identified by its fruit. Figs are never gathered from thornbushes, and grapes are not picked from bramble bushes. A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart.”

We ALL have bad days.

Sometimes a bad day leads to a bad attitude, doesn’t it? When everyone seems to be plotting against us, and everything appears to be an obstacle in our path, it’s downright hard NOT to gather up attitude and watch that ‘tude take on a life of its own!

For the sake of today’s Literal 4 Lent discussion, let’s peel off a few layers of misunderstanding when it comes to what ‘attitude’ is and is not.

Attitude…

    • Is how I feel about what is happening right now.
    • Can change from moment to moment.
    • Can be pinned on me by someone else.
    • Is sometimes ‘bad,’ sometimes ‘good.’
    • Is part of being human.

The thing about attitude is that it isn’t always the same. I might have a bad day and say or do something I will later regret, but a hasty word said in the heat of a moment does not a HEARTITUDE make!

The APP

What is HEARTITUDE, you ask?

Heartitude is what Jesus is referring to in today’s Luke 6 text. Heartitude is NOT the same as attitude!

What Jesus speaks of here is something other than the changeable ‘mood’ that you and I carry around and that depends on our circumstances at any given time.

Heartitude…

  • Has deeper roots than attitude does.
  • Can be best deciphered over time.
  • Is your ‘normal’ setting or default mode when your defenses are down and you are not ‘on guard.’
  • Is more than a feeling! It’s what I believe to be true, no matter how I feel about what is going on in this moment.

The idea that Christians are somehow capable of immunity from issues of attitude is deceptive. Don’t buy the lie that if you follow Jesus, you’ll never be guilty of copping an attitude in challenging situations. We want to rise above our gut-level reactions to things as they happen – especially to things that push our buttons, hurt our feelings and betray our trust – but we’re human.

God knows we’re human. He knows we aren’t perfect.

HE MADE US THAT WAY.

Heartitude is the posture of your heart in relationship to the Spirit of God. It’s where your ATTITUDE ADJUSTMENT ultimately comes from!

What Jesus is saying here is that the content of our HEART spills over into our words and actions. By comparing this spillover to fruit on a tree, Jesus is saying that where our heart takes root is where our fruit comes from. Just as a tree produces fruit over time, in its season, so the fruit of our hearts is revealed over time, throughout the seasons of our lives.

Attitude pops up at a moment’s notice, but fruit takes its time to develop and grow. That’s what HEARTITUDE is.

If your life is producing hearty, healthy fruit, don’t let one bad day get you down!

Get back to your roots.

After all, the best remedy for an attitude problem is a Heartitude-check.

It’s just what the Doctor ordered.

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