Construction Zone

Even those on a Trek to the Manger can expect to encounter a Construction Zone now and then…

I know all about Construction Zones. As the wife of a road builder, I have been to and through all sorts of highway and bridge Construction Zones over the years.

I know the difference between concrete and cement, and I can tell whether a road has been paved in concrete or bituminous asphalt.

I’ve seen road surfaces being milled and bridge decks being poured.

I recognize a core sample when I see one and I know that when testing with a nuclear density machine, you’re supposed to wear a radiation-detection badge (I know, because a few of those have ended up in the laundry by mistake).

I’ve seen roads and bridges in various stages of a contract, and when it comes to Construction Zones, well… you might say I know just enough to be dangerous.

In Bible study today we agreed that our group gatherings look pretty much like a Construction Zone. In various stages of construction, each one of us is a distinctly unfinished project (some of us might even say we’re a real piece of work).

Some of us are entering uncharted territory. The road God is building in us doesn’t even exist yet! We might be able to see the bright paint sprays of the utility companies who have marked what’s hidden underground, but where we’re going, there have been no roads before.

Some of us are freshly graded earth, ready for the Paver to make us into a usable roadway.

Some of us are being resurfaced – getting a face-lift, you might say – because the years have left their mark, but there is so much more life left for us to live.

Some of us are all rebar and concrete forms – not looking so much like a road just yet, but being equipped with a solid foundation so that when the deck is poured, we’ll be able to handle any load God might bring our way.

Some of us are being signed and striped. We’re looking pretty darn good, but there are directions we still need and pavement markings that we require in order to continue safely down the road God has put us on.

The thing about Construction Zones is that, with very few exceptions, no one likes them.

Seriously.

It’s messy. It’s bumpy. And it’s really, really slow.

I suppose those doing the work itself would disagree, but for those who just want to pass on through, Construction Zones stink.

This is not unlike what happens in our Bible study group, or in any group of those whose lives are perpetually under construction. With very few exceptions, watching the construction of others is like driving through the Zone…

It’s messy. It’s bumpy. And it’s really, really slow!

Sometimes we get impatient and take a detour, to avoid the construction (and those being constructed) altogether.

Sometimes we wait for what seems like forever in order to move past the Zone that others are in, because when one life gets messy in a community of believers, everyone feels it.

Sometimes the Construction Zones of others keep us from doing things we want to do, on a timeline of our own choosing. This can frustrate, anger and disappoint us, no matter how understanding we try to be.

Today, try to think about those whose work is the Construction Zone… What they do while we’re feeling inconvenienced is to create something new.

Something better. Something more efficient. Something safe.

God Himself is in the Construction Zones of our lives, making something better. Something more beautiful. Something He can use. Something others need.

Yes, the Zone irritates those who navigate it during construction, but for those who are hands-on in the mess, the progress being made is measurable and significant.

We are becoming more and more like Jesus with every pass of the Paver, with every passing day.

No matter how you feel about what God is constructing in and around you, rest assured – the finished product will be well worth the wait.

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What TWO Can DO L4L.19

Eggistentialism 1.5 or Three of a Perfect Pair

Image by bitzcelt via Flickr

The WORD

‘The Pharisees replied, “You are making those claims about yourself! Such testimony is not valid.” Jesus told them, “These claims are valid even though I make them about myself. For I know where I came from and where I am going, but you don’t know this about me. You judge me by human standards, but I do not judge anyone. And if I did, my judgment would be correct in every respect because I am not alone. The Father who sent me is with me. Your own law says that if two people agree about something, their witness is accepted as fact. I am one witness, and my Father who sent me is the other.”’ John 8:13-18 (New Living Translation)

This challenge from the Pharisees comes on the heels of Jesus’ failure to pass judgment on the woman caught in adultery (“Let he who is without sin cast the first stone”). Seems that these leaders of the faith were more apt to buy into a messiah figure who would wield his weapons of war on the battlefield of works and moral judgment  than one whose failure to condemn the clearly guilty left them feeling uncomfortably unjustified.

‘The Pharisees objected, “All we have is your word on this. We need more than this to go on.” Jesus replied, “You’re right that you only have my word. But you can depend on it being true. I know where I’ve come from and where I go next. You don’t know where I’m from or where I’m headed. You decide according to what you can see and touch. I don’t make judgments like that. But even if I did, my judgment would be true because I wouldn’t make it out of the narrowness of my experience but in the largeness of the One who sent me, the Father. That fulfills the conditions set down in God’s Law: that you can count on the testimony of two witnesses. And that is what you have. You have my word and you have the word of the Father who sent me.”’ (The Message)

As He often did, Jesus demonstrated His knowledge and understanding of Jewish Law by quoting from Deuteronomy (17:6 and 19:15), which had to make the Pharisees more than a little bit hot beneath the collar. In both of these Old Testament verses, the point made is that no man should be found guilty of a crime on the say-so of only one witness; the testimony of two or more is required.

Funny how Jesus managed to turn the Jewish leaders’ demand for proof of Jesus’ claims into His own method of defense. They demanded that Jesus bring a sound witness forward, to prove He was telling the truth. Jesus insinuates that what they’re really trying to do is find Him guilty of a crime, to which He offers the testimony of His Father; the Word of God Himself.

The APP

How many times have you found yourself in a situation where your words and witness fell short of being convincing? I was in this very place years ago, when I found myself working for a leader whose behind-the-scenes manipulation had become a grotesque art form. No matter what this person said or did to exercise control over me or to try to put me in my ‘place’, no one else was ever around when it happened. I was the only one who knew about the fiery darts that routinely pierced my sensitive skin and left me wounded and doubting my abilities, my intentions and my calling.

These circumstances ended up being an eye-opening experience, illustrating the need for the testimony of two; if there had been another witness, I don’t think I would have been the one to leave that workplace. But as it was, it would have been my word against his; not an ideal situation no matter how you frame it.

Jesus’ words acknowledge God’s Law in this confrontation with the Pharisees because Jesus knew that they wouldn’t listen to Him alone. Many times our squabbles in the faith arise from a “he said, she said” exchange, where you tell me what you think and I counter with my own words, to which you add your arguments and consequently pour fuel on my fire…

Jesus didn’t take this approach.

Jesus provided the testimony of two when He chose to let God speak on the subject, by letting God’s Word speak for Himself.

Now, you might argue that Christians do this all the time. Who hasn’t been the victim of scripture quoted for the purpose of proving that someone else is wrong so that I can be right? We can subtly (or blatantly) insert scripture into our conversations in order to throw more weight around than we actually have, and we can do this for our own selfish gain while furthering our own self-serving agendas.

This is not what Jesus did, nor is it what He is teaching us to do. Instead, He was aligning Himself with the powerful witness of One whose Word could validate Jesus’ own words and actions.

Jesus chose the testimony of two – He and His Father’s Word – so that He might be successful in the mission He was on.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 speaks about our very real need for the testimony of two:  

“Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.”

Quite literally, Jesus knew what two could do, and He chose to stand unified with the Father when confronted by those who would attack Him with their words, with their anger, and finally with their weapon of death on a cross.

You and I could choose today to walk the narrow road alone, but why would we when we know what two can do?

Two can help one another succeed.

Two can pick each other up when they fall.

Two can huddle together for warmth in this cold world.

Two can stand back-to-back and conquer any enemy that comes their way.

Jesus knew what two can do, and He chose to stand back-to-back with His Father, conquering death and sin so that you and I might be brought into unbroken fellowship with the powerful witness of One whose Word can validate our own words and actions.

You know that Christ comes with His Father’s testimony. Align yourself with Christ!

You know that there are people in your life who are witnesses of God’s work in you. Align yourself with them!

Where two or more are gathered together in the Name of Jesus, THERE HE IS among you!

It’s time to be Literal 4 Lent, my friend.

It’s time to see just what two can do!

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Workaholic L4L.09

Confession Of A Workaholic - They Say That Eve...

Image by echam+dikya+dzara via Flickr

The WORD

When the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into the boats and went across to Capernaum to look for him. They found him on the other side of the lake and asked, ‘Rabbi, when did you get here?’

Jesus replied, ‘I tell you the truth, you want to be with me because I fed you, not because you understood the miraculous signs. But don’t be so concerned about perishable things like food. Spend your energy seeking the eternal life that the Son of Man can give you. For God the Father has given me the seal of his approval.’

They replied, ‘We want to perform God’s works, too. What should we do?’

Jesus told them, ‘This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the one he has sent.’” John 6:24-29 (New Living Translation)

This text follows Jesus’ feeding of the 5,000. Those who had been fed realized that Jesus had moved on, so they followed him across the lake. Let’s read these words again, this time from the TNIV:

The crowd realized that Jesus and his disciples were not there. So they got into boats and went to Capernaum to look for Jesus. They found him on the other side of the lake. They asked him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?”

Jesus answered, “What I’m about to tell you is true. You are not looking for me because you saw miraculous signs. You are looking for me because you ate the loaves until you were full.  Do not work for food that spoils. Work for food that lasts forever. That is the food the Son of Man will give you. God the Father has put his seal of approval on him.”

Then they asked him, “What does God want from us? What works does he want us to do?”  

Jesus answered, “God’s work is to believe in the One he has sent.”

Everyone knows a workaholic.

Some of us ARE workaholics.

The dictionary definition of workaholic is: somebody who has a compulsive need to work hard and for very long hours. Somebody addicted to work.

The people seeking Jesus had a compulsive need, in response to experiencing the miraculous signs and wonders of Jesus’ ministry, to do what Jesus did. Maybe they genuinely wanted to heal and feed the masses. Maybe they were caught up in the swell of excitement around Jesus and simply wanted to re-create that environment around themselves. Either way, these people had the potential to become addicted to work, and Jesus knew it.

The APP

Jesus recognized that this eager crowd had all of the markers of becoming workaholics; people who could very easily get lost in their work, losing track of the reason they were doing it in the first place.

Isn’t that just what happens to US? We find a job that will pay the bills, put our education to good use and allow us to contribute our unique giftedness to a purpose or cause that we can (hopefully) get excited about… and it sucks us in. Before we realize what has happened, our priorities shift, our time management goes haywire and we find ourselves dreaming workplace scenarios in the night.

Becoming a workaholic robs us of our sleep and our relationships and our health. What started with clarity as a beautiful thing can easily end up a disastrous mess when we lose track of why we’re doing it at all.

It’s no different in the church.

We get recruited to serve as a Sunday School teacher or sound technician. We like feeling useful. We like the idea that what we’re doing is God’s work. We figure that if we do even MORE for God, it can only be a good thing (right?), so we take on more hours or additional ministries.

Somehow we move from serving out of a response to God to serving in order to get a response from God.

Jesus knew we would be tempted to make our work the focus, which is why His response to this crowd of enthusiastic do-ers is worth our literal consideration today…

God doesn’t want our busyness.

God doesn’t require long hours.

God isn’t impressed with our spiritual resumes.

The only work God wants from us is our BELIEF in the Savior. Period.

Do yourself a favor today and make a list of what you do. List everything you do on a normal day, in a normal week. Then ask yourself these questions:

What are you doing that feels like busyness?

What are you doing that takes long hours, especially hours away from those whose lives are connected to yours?

What are you doing that serves mainly to build up a resume of spiritual service?

What are you doing that fits poorly, feels heavy or conflicts with something in your life that you value more?

God is giving us  permission to spend all of our energy on believing in Him!

Take Jesus at His Word.

He’ll take care of the rest.

Click here to return to the Literal 4 Lent menu.

Affirmation Station L4L.07

Affirmations - Heart - Red

Image by Gurumustuk Singh via Flickr

The WORD

‘Please, sir,’ the woman said, ‘give me this water! Then I’ll never be thirsty again, and I won’t have to come here to get water.’

‘Go and get your husband,’ Jesus told her.

‘I don’t have a husband,’ the woman replied.

Jesus said, ‘You’re right! You don’t have a husband – for you have had five husbands, and you aren’t even married to the man you’re living with now. You certainly spoke the truth!’” John 4:15-18 (New Living Translation)

It’ll feel a bit awkward, but read back through this text as a conversation – out loud! Try to feel as Jesus and the woman might have felt…

The Word for us today comes from the story of the Samaritan woman at the well. Jesus strikes up a conversation with this woman whose past is probably part of the reason she is filling her bucket at the well alone, in the heat of the day.

Jesus had every opportunity to point out the error of her ways.

The woman had every opportunity to run the other way. Yet neither one did.

Well, you might say that Jesus asked about the woman’s husband in order to reveal her sinful nature, right? After all, He does proceed to describe her history in enough detail to convince her that He was, at the very least, a prophet.

I want to propose another motivation for Jesus’ approach: What if Jesus asked the husband question just so that He could say to her, “You’re RIGHT!

Think about it… Even in today’s culture, a woman who has gone through five husbands and a live-in probably doesn’t receive much affirmation from the people around her. She gets pointed at because of her choices. She is shunned because of her reputation. She is ‘wrong’ at every turn of every failed relationship, and she is probably surrounded by reminders of those failures no matter where she goes.

Today was no exception – she had no friend or family member to gather water with; the ‘right’ people had already been to the well in the cool morning hours, so she had made the dusty trek alone.

It’s not as if Jesus asked the husband question often – this is the only time we hear of such a thing in Jesus’ ministry. He wasn’t trying to sell her something – say, a timeshare – where His spiel could only be presented if both husband and wife were there to sign (or refuse to sign) on the dotted line.

What if Jesus asked the husband question simply to be able to show her the grace she didn’t deserve; ascribing to this broken woman the value she didn’t know she had?

He asked a question that, if answered truthfully, would allow Him to say, “You’re RIGHT!” to someone who only knew how to be wrong.

The APP

I’ve had the privilege of serving as a volunteer for Youth Specialties at the National Youth Workers Convention in the fall. One of my roles in the past has been on the Affirmation Team – a small group of servants whose mission is to affirm, appreciate and encourage youth workers – many of whom arrive at Convention as walking wounded, having been beaten up by the very ones they live to serve.

One of my very favorite A-Team responsibilities was the Affirmation Station – a table set up in the middle of a traffic area, stocked with poster-sized paper and markers. A place where paid and volunteer church staff could create signs to express their love, care and appreciation for the soul-weary co-workers they were attending the event with. The A-Team would routinely stop by the Affirmation Station to hang the posters, and by the end of the week we invariably would have run out of wall space.

Affirmations like these covered the walls, written to build people up and remind them how important they are:

David Jones is the BEST youth pastor in Tennessee!

Mt. Vernon Presbyterian LOVES their Sr. High staff!

What you’re doing MATTERS, Kara! You’re making a difference in Alpharetta!

My life was changed forever because my youth leader CARED!

When Jesus chose to affirm the Samaritan woman that day, He gave back the beauty, intelligence and worth that the living of her life had stripped away.

She was all wrong until Jesus reminded her, “You’re RIGHT!” His affirmation, and the conversation that followed, left her (and many others) changed.

Look around you today.

Look for those who seem all wrong.

Look for those who have been hurt, lied to, beat up and compromised.

Look for those whose past is ever-present, and then follow in the footsteps of Jesus. Set up your own Affirmation Station and make it your Lenten mission to paper the proverbial walls of your home, your workplace and your community with healing words of hope and desperately needed messages of love.

It doesn’t get much more literal than that.

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Literal 4 Lent: The Best Teaching Ever Heard

(Click here for the Literal 4 Lent home page)

Several years ago I attended Youth Specialties’ National Youth Workers Convention in the fall. I always LOVE YS events, and this one was no exception, with speakers like Andy Stanley and Louie Giglio on the main stage. I was especially eager to hear Shane Claiborne speak – his message the year before had seriously rocked my world, so I was hungry to hear what he would have to say this time, as thousands of youth workers gathered to be inspired.

Shane took the stage and proceeded to do a couple of carnival tricks, including fire-eating, which was weird but not altogether unexpected (have you ever seen Shane?). Then he took out his Bible and began to read from the Gospel of Matthew – the Sermon on the Mount.

He read chapter 5. And chapter 6. And chapter 7.

Not a short text, yet I was ready for what was coming next – Shane’s unique way of looking at scripture that would certainly lead me into new understandings and applications of the Word.

That’s not exactly what happened. As Shane read the final verses of Matthew ch. 7, he looked out at the crowd of eager listeners and prayed:

“God, give us the courage to live it.”

And he walked off the stage. Talk OVER. Total, stunned silence fell over the room.

From my journal, dated Nov. 16, 2007: “I admit to entertaining the question, ‘is this… IT?’ Yet even as I asked myself the question, I couldn’t believe I was asking myself if Jesus’ greatest sermon – in His own words – was ‘all’ that Shane was going to share… but I did think it.”

Sitting in the silent company of thousands whose mental gymnastics had to be similar to my own, I was MOVED from disappointment to the realization that this man, who clearly had the full attention of everyone in the room, had just leveraged his influence to lift up the words of Jesus as GOSPEL… TRUTH.

I was moved – to tears. “I am at once convicted and motivated; mortified and passionate; confused and crystal clear.”

The way this sermon of Jesus ends is the way I have chosen to begin the season of Lent, as it is ushered in today, on Ash Wednesday. Jesus makes it clear that His words are not just something to add to our collection of wise sayings, to be pulled out and comforted with in times of need. No, what Jesus says is something that I most desperately need to hear, and I suspect that you do, too.

“‘These words I speak to you are not incidental additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living. They are foundational words, words to build a life on. If you work these words into your life, you are like a smart carpenter who built his house on solid rock. Rain poured down, the river flooded, a tornado hit – but nothing moved that house. It was fixed to the rock. But if you just use my words in Bible studies and don’t work them into your life, you are like a stupid carpenter who built his house on the sandy beach. When a storm rolled in and the waves came up, it collapsed like a house of cards.’ When Jesus concluded his address, the crowd burst into applause. They had never heard teaching like this. It was apparent that he was living everything he was saying – quite a contrast to their religion teachers! This was the best teaching they had ever heard.” Matthew 7:24-29 (The Message)

THIS was the BEST TEACHING they had ever heard. Because Jesus wasn’t just telling them what to do – He was showing them.

What if Jesus meant for us to do the same?

What if Jesus was serious when He said that the role of Bible study is to work the Word into the living of our lives?

What if He meant for us to take His teachings literally?

During this Lenten season that begins today and runs through Easter morning, I invite you to join me in asking, “What if?

Pink Shoes Ministries is going to experiment with being Literal 4 Lent.

Each week day during the 40 days of Lent we will be considering the literal application of the teachings of Jesus and their potential impact on our lives, our families, our churches and communities. We’ll take a daily look at the red letters in the Gospels, making the Word our primary text for this season of the church year – this Way of the Cross.

Each week day, here at Pink Shoes Ministries on wordpress.com, we will consider THE WORD (a teaching from Jesus’ ministry) and THE APP (how we might live it – today). On the weekends we will rest and consider the impact of this experiment in Kingdom living, taking note of what the Word has done as we gave it hands and feet and took it into our world.

What if people listened to what we have to say and responded, “It’s apparent that they are living everything they are saying – quite a contrast to the typical religious crowd.”

Let’s DO IT! Let’s pray for the boldness and the courage to LIVE the best teaching ever heard for the next 40 days – and see what happens!

It won’t be easy, but it’ll be worth it. It’ll be counter-cultural, but it will also be counter to the passive Christianity that appears to have its roots somewhere other than in the teachings of Jesus the Christ.

I realize that we are all over the place when it comes to our interpretation of scripture, but won’t it be an unprecedented undertaking to be Literal 4 Lent?!

In November, 2007 as I sat silent in the crowd, this prayer rose in my heart. May it rise in your heart, too, as we follow Jesus into a life LIVED for the glory of God…

“I am eager for what YOU will do NEXT, God! Bring it. I am ready.

I am yours.”

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Christmas in July (focus)

In only a few short months, Christmas decorations will hit store shelves and the countdown to December 25th will commence.

NOW is the time to decide how you will celebrate the birth of Jesus in 2013!

Each of us has a history when it comes to the holidays. Much of what we have come to expect or require comes from what others have expected and required throughout the years.

Of course, we can continue to perpetuate cycles that are grounded in someone else’s idea of what makes for a meaningful Christmas… or we can build momentum toward authenticity by simply shifting our focus from tradition to expression.

Expression of our love for the God who could not stay away.

Expression of our growth in the ways of the Kingdom.

Expression of appreciation for those whose lives we are tethered to.

Expression of the child’s heart residing in these aging bodies.

Don’t get me wrong – tradition isn’t the enemy. But tradition can be a bully if we choose not to keep it in check.

This year, why not choose your focus instead of defaulting to an old one?

Ask yourself what word, phrase or question matters most to you – then use it to guide your holiday decision-making over the next six months. Perhaps these questions will help you in the process of finding your Christmas focus:

  • What is my fondest Christmas memory? Who was there? What made this time special?
  • What do I look forward to most when I think about Christmas?
  • From this vantage point – six months out – what one thing matters most to me about this particular Christmas?
  • When I – and my loved ones – look back on Christmas 2013, what word(s) do I hope will come to mind?

Compile your words. Consider the connections. Ask God to show you how the celebration of His birth can bring something new to life in you. Through you. Then sum it up as succinctly as you can.

That’s it for today… Choose your focus!

It may sound ridiculously simple, but it just might be the beginning of a very beautiful thing.

 

And You Are Loved III

 

 

 

Tonino! (an Afterthought)

Our first day in Italy. What better way to spend it than exploring the island of Capri?!

Unfortunately, our adventure began in a flurry of missed buses and racing hearts and feet as we showed our true tourist-colors in a strange land (with strange street names, bus stops and interpretations of time).

Never mind, though, because we landed at the dock before the ferry took its leave and were quickly ushered toward our waiting tour group and its lively, remarkably patient leader…

Tonino.

The first thing Tonino did was place a sticker on each of us (literally – he stuck stickers on our shirts, just like in kindergarten). Remember those notes to your mother being safety-pinned onto your jacket before the bell rang? There was only one word on the sticker, and as we looked around, we saw that everyone was wearing one. Everyone in our tour group, anyways. On a white background in bold red letters was the name of our guide: Tonino.

I had to giggle. Seriously?! But as the boarding process began and we saw just how many other tour groups were heading to the same small destination, the stickers made a lot more sense.

Tonino’s welcoming comments included a tutorial on how to follow the leader, which could have been a real challenge since he himself was rather short. How would we be able to see him in the gathering crowd? Thank goodness for tall umbrellas! When Tonino held his blue umbrella in the air, we knew which way to go – even in the mass of tourists.

The day was perfect! (Almost) rainless. Relaxing. Breathtaking (particularly the drive to Anacapri, with its crazy-winding roads and cliff-side bridges). Every time we were to move together as a group, the blue umbrella was lifted high and our seasoned leader would shout out (loudly) the word on our stickers – his name…

Tonino!

Tonino made an impression on us. So much so, that for the remainder of the trip, every time a family member was ready to move on and wanted the rest of us to follow, we would hear a loud ‘Tonino!‘ and immediately we knew what it meant (even if we opted out of obedience to the call).

What made Tonino effective as a guide speaks volumes to me about Kingdom living…

The church needs guides just like a group of nervous travelers needs a leader – someone who has been where we are going and knows which interesting sites to point out along the way. Someone who can avoid the potholes and navigate the quirky roads and seas. Someone who can give advice on where to eat and how much change you will need to gain entrance to the public restroom. Someone who can prepare you for what is coming, making your experience less frustrating and more fruitful.

The church needs guides who will boldly wear the Name of Jesus on their t-shirts and shamelessly holler – cross raised high! – to get our attention and to keep us together from point A to point B. Leaders who will make it possible for all of us to participate, not assuming that we already know everything about our common destination. Tonino did this at every important juncture, clearly laying out the schedule and pointing out the route so that all would make it back to the bus or the boat – so that no one would be left behind.

The church is in need of leaders who will patiently travel with us in groups, even though they know enough and are confident enough to venture out on their own. Because not all of us are ready to face this adventure alone! There is real comfort and peace in knowing that someone is looking out for you. Some of us can’t read a map to save our lives, and some of us should never EVER get behind the wheel of a car and drive up (or down) a seaside cliff, even if the view at the top is more glorious than any we’ve ever seen before.

Now, before you accuse me of advocating for too much hand-holding in the faith-life of God’s family, it’s important that you know what happened after the tour ended that day.
We knew how to get to the marina.
We knew how much a ticket would cost and where we would like to sit next time on the cruise from the mainland.
We knew that the uphill trip to Anacapri would be our preferred destination, and we knew which cafe to eat at again – because… YUM!
Our guided tour had given us the confidence and the tools to be able to venture out on our own in the future, because our guide had completed his work with flying colors – or should I say, with blue umbrella in hand?!

Not all of us are called to lead – and that is by design.
And if you are called to lead – stickers are optional, but grace and patience and empathy are not.

If you have even a hint of Tonino inside, and if you have an umbrella handy and know how to use it, I’m pretty sure there are openings in a family of faith near you. Channel that energy and ability our way!

Tonino!

 

12×12 Challenge: Day 10 (January 4th)

Day 10 begins with Romans 12 in the Good News Translation (GNT): Click HERE to read!

Word(s) for Day 10: Share & Bless

Everything was meant to be shared. Food. Warmth. Resources. Time. Laughter. Tears. Space. What do you own that you are keeping to yourself? Consider each of these a holy invitation to share.

To bless is to wish nothing but the best for another. No ill will. No hard feelings. No payback. No disrespect. Blessing is about more than the words that you use – it’s about the thoughts that you think when you aren’t editing yourself. Of course, no one knows this but you… and God. Don’t pat yourself on the back for restraining your tongue – what counts is that you actively praise, speak well of, protect and show favor toward everyone. Especially those who aren’t exactly blessing you.

Prayer:

Provider, Protector and Giver of blessing, everything I have comes from You. Help me to see Your provision as an opportunity to assist You in sharing the wealth of Your Kingdom with the needy, the grieving, the joyful and the hard-to-love. Expand my vision so that no one escapes my notice (because I know that no one escapes Yours). May I be an agent of Your divine care toward whomever You direct me today. Amen.

12×12 Challenge: Day 9 (January 3rd)

Day 9 begins with Romans 12 in the Tree of Life Bible: Click HERE to read!

Word(s) for Day 9: Zeal

Zeal is a great word – it even sounds active! Much of what Romans 12 is saying to us boils down to actively engaging in the Christian life. Are you energetic or obligated? How does your life score on the Zeal– o-meter? Go out and live it – today!

Prayer:

You inspire me to live my life with the pedal to the metal, Lord! Give me the strength to serve, rejoice, endure, persist and contribute to the life and well-being of others as I demonstrate Zeal for Your Word and Your ways in this world. Amen.

Discover. Uncover. Recover. Spiritual Disciplines for the Expectant (Part Three)

Hope

Hope (Photo credit: bitzcelt)

God sure has His work cut out for Him this Christmas.

In keeping with our Advent theme of expectancy, what many of us are expecting from the Christ child and our annual celebration of His birth has changed over the past week. While we seek to DISCOVER Him in His Word and UNCOVER His Presence in our hearts, a growing number of us have another need – one which trumps the previous two…

a need to RECOVER.

The spiritual discipline of RECOVER requires that we look no further than the dictionary to aptly describe what our expectant hearts need most from Emmanuel today:

To get back: REGAIN

We desperately need what we had before last Friday; before the diagnosis; before the deployment; before tragedy struck and darkness hovered over the face of our deepest fears.

To bring back to normal position or condition: RESCUE

‘Normal’ is a relative term, isn’t it? We might even ask whether normal is a word we can entertain in a world such as the one in which we live. Perhaps what we need most is God’s reminder that He knows our condition. He sees our aberrations and infections and misfires. He knows that what we see and experience and read and watch each day is not His idea of normal. He knows that the most some of us are hoping for in the coming year is a new normal, since returning to an unbroken state in these broken lives we lead is impossible without a full-on invasion by the God of the Angel Armies.

But, WAIT! That’s what Christmas IS! The Baby in the manger came to be our life-line, our connection to Heaven. Our RESCUE.

To find or identify again

We discussed our great need to DISCOVER God when we began our series last week. It’s no secret that when tragedy strikes, people begin to look up and look around in search of meaning and hope. Our response to the struggles and challenges of life can take us down dark paths toward more difficulty and pain, or we can choose to seek out that which we have lost sight of. Through the tears and discomfort of knowing too much and seeing too much, we must discipline ourselves to look for the Light. Only by that Light do we stand a chance of finding what we’ve lost and in so doing, helping others to find it (Him), too.

REACH

I never thought about the word RECOVER meaning to REACH, and yet there it is – in black and white. In order to recover from tragedy and find what we have lost, we must REACH for the One Who has already reached out to us through the Presence of His Son in our dark world. If you can do nothing else to express what you find inside your head and heart today, do this one thing: reach for Him.

To save from loss and restore to usefulness

Ultimately, the work of the manger is a saving work. We have all experienced loss. In our hopelessness we know what it’s like to be rendered utterly useless. As we look forward to  reminders of God’s action on our behalf – as Christmas Eve approaches – may we be open to being saved. Rescued. Reached. Found. Restored.

Not just so that we can feel better.

Not only for the good of our own hearts and the lives of those we bump elbows with from day to day.

But so that we may be found useful in the ongoing RECOVERY work of the Kingdom of God. Agents of healing. Messengers of peace. Bringers of joy (and hugs and smiles). Sharers of tears.

Children of God.