The ‘C’ Word (a PINK Tuesday post)

The letter C

Image by Mel B. via Flickr

I know, I know… you’ve heard all of the quotes before:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Reinhold Niebuhr

If you don’t create change, change will create you.”

“Change is inevitable. Growth is optional.”

 “Change is the only constant.”

We could go on, but we know the drill. Change happens. Ready or not, willing or not, it’s a-coming. For some of us, change is equivalent to a four-letter-word that brings with it a discomfort that only makes us wiggle and squirm and ultimately finds us fighting back in an effort to keep things the way they WERE (the way we happen to LIKE them).

For some, though, change is a necessary rite of passage that creates the momentum necessary to move us from here to there; from where we are comfortably seated now to where we need to be for our next adventure in life. Does it hurt? Yup. Is it hard? You betcha.

I suspect that some of you are anticipating the type of change I’m facing this summer – that of an (almost) empty nest.  Or perhaps your change is about 6 lbs. and wears diapers and cries every time you manage to fall asleep. Maybe your change is an empty chair at the dinner table or one less passenger in the carpool. Change can look like moving boxes or new neighbors or the ceiling of a hospital room, but no matter what your view, everything is (of course) always about to change.

Jesus deals with the idea of change in a way that you and I might consider a bit harsh. Listen to these words from Matthew 10:34-39:

“Don’t think I’ve come to make life cozy. I’ve come to cut – make a sharp knife-cut between son and father, daughter and mother, bride and mother-in-law – cut through these cozy domestic arrangements and free you for God. Well-meaning family members can be your worst enemies. If you prefer father or mother over me, you don’t deserve me. If you prefer son or daughter over me, you don’t deserve me. If you don’t go all the way with me, through thick and thin, you don’t deserve me. If your first concern is to look after yourself, you’ll never find yourself. But if you forget about yourself and look to me, you’ll find both yourself and me.”

Change in my own life has often been bloody. It’s often felt more like the work of a really sharp knife than, say, the warm hands of a potter and the whirring sound of a potter’s wheel. Yet Jesus clearly says that until I am cut free of what I consider comfortable, I am not capable of being joined with Him. My work, my family, my ministry are only that – MINE – until I yield to the severing that His sword came here to do.

Change is running rampant in my life this summer! I’m feeling the awkwardness, the discomfort, the brewing of what may very well become for me my own ‘perfect storm.’ Yet I trust the One who wields the weapon that ultimately makes me capable of giving more, seeing more, loving more and doing more than what I’m equipped to do today.

As this season of change runs its course in me, Pink Tuesdays are going on sabbatical! Vacation! What you can expect from Pink Shoes Ministries this summer is a more random expression of growth than the predictable Tuesday morning post. Expect CHANGE! The visual format of this blogsite will be changing! Who knows what future posts might look like as God re-shapes me for His service?!

In these months of change, please consider exploring some of the posts you may have missed in the past. I’ll be updating and organizing them by category in hopes of making it easier for you to find what you might need. And please take time to write me a note, letting me know better how to encourage and support you in YOUR static and fluid seasons of life!

As change unfolds, perhaps the ‘C’ word will emerge as…

Centering!

Catalyst!

Celebration!

CareFREE!

Spirit, I say ‘BRING IT!’

 

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Pants on Fire (a PINK Tuesday post)

Example capri pants.

Image via Wikipedia

I still can’t hear the word liar without hearing the rest of the rhyme:

Liar, liar. Pants on fire. Nose as long as a telephone wire.

(Proof that making something rhyme gives it staying power – possibly undeserved.)

I don’t use the word much. Don’t even hear the word much. So when it shows up in Scripture five times in the petite book of 1 John, it grabs my attention. I’m listening.

li-ar (n): a person who has lied or lies repeatedly. Synonyms include: deceiver, trickster, cheat, beguiler, fibber, storyteller.

Anyone come to mind?

In the world you and I live in, lying is fairly commonplace.

We struggle with ways to get our kids to tell the truth, and we wonder how we’ll know if they don’t.

We fail to tell the whole truth sometimes, hoping that a partial lie (or incomplete truth) will pass for the real thing in a pinch.

We weigh the value of a relationship before deciding whether this one is deserving of the facts (or just a camouflaged version of the truth).

We’d like to think we’re fairly wise in how we present ourselves, but we’re always open to the possibility of an aesthetic touch-up here or strategic adjustment there, to insure that we’ve put our best foot forward.

What we fail to acknowledge is that manipulation of the truth in any way, shape or form is actually a lie.

Apparently John had witnessed, on more than one occasion, behavior that warranted the use of this strong, descriptive word: liar. The Greek language definition of the word, which reflects John’s objections to its appearance in the church, is slightly different than the English dictionary version printed above:

Liar: One who breaks faith. A false and faithless man. To lie, to speak deliberate falsehoods. To deceive one by a lie, to lie to.

I may not think of myself as a liar, but have I ever broken faith?

Surely I’m not a trickster, but is there anything about my persona that could be considered false? A misrepresentation of who I am or what I believe?

Sometimes I tell a fib or two, but does that make me faithless?

I might use artistic license at times, but it’s not like I’m deliberately misleading others!

“Deceiver” is a name given to the evil one – God’s enemy. Not to people like ME!

What was John thinking when he offered up this four-letter word?

I Am A “C”

I am a “C H.” I am a “C H R I S T I A N.” Which implies, I belong to Christ. I follow Christ. I am HIS. And yet my claims of belonging to the family of Christ ring hollow and tinny when my life itself fails to confirm it.

“If someone says, “I belong to God,” but doesn’t obey God’s commandments, that person is a liar and does not live in the truth.” I John 2:4 (NLT)

We are liars in the eyes of God when we confess Him with our lips and deny Him with our lives. When the life I live is a misrepresentation of the One I’m living for, and still I claim to be a member of the Body of Christ, I’m fooling myself.

One of John’s names was John the Evangelist. If he was known as such, he must have spent years of his life proclaiming the Name of Jesus and lifting up the Gospel of grace before those who were hungry for a bit of good news. John knew that it was as important to preach without words – through a life lived authentically for the glory of God – as it was to speak the Message in audible ways. Actions speak louder than words, you know. John knew it, too.

And just in case we forget or begin to think that we’re somehow exempt from this truth, John is here to remind us that words are not enough for a watching world to be convinced. They’ve got to see it to believe it.

I Love You, Lord

And I lift my voice to worship You, oh my soul rejoice! Take joy, my King, in what You hear; may it be a sweet, sweet sound in Your ear. (Lyrics by Laurie Klein)

We sing the songs on Sunday morning. We pray the prayers that express in words the love we believe we have toward God. And we just can’t stand that annoying person sitting in the pew behind us.

“If someone says, “I love God,” but hates a Christian brother or sister, that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we have not seen?” I John 4:20 (NLT)

John uses this word liar to describe someone who claims to love God but fails to extend that love to people. I wonder if it’s just that we’re… confused. It’s not difficult to see how we might have become confused – after all, love in our culture is best described as the warm, fuzzy feeling that wells up in our hearts when we think about someone who is special to us – right? If we claim to have the warm fuzzies for God, surely we can muster up a tepid fleece for those who worship with us, right?

Unfortunately for us, it’s going to take more than a feeling to qualify as a lover in the Kingdom of God.

In God’s world, love is an action. Love is a lifestyle. Love is a choice.

We can’t love outside of relationship, which means that we must be in relationship with the people of God in order to truly be in relationship with God Himself. Only through the act of loving real people can we even come close to knowing how to love the God who made them in His image.

Loving God is the result of loving those who bear His likeness and are known by His Name; not the other way around.

Denial… That’s a River in Egypt, Right?

I know – it’s tempting to play dumb. That must be why John was driven to use such hard words to drive home such a critical point to those who filled the worship centers of his day.

“And who is the great liar? The one who says that Jesus is not the Christ. Such people are antichrists, for they have denied the Father and the Son.” 1 John 2:22 (NLT)

When it comes right down to it, I wonder how many people actually deny that Jesus is the Christ. Think about it with me. ANTICHRISTS. That’s quite an accusation. How many people in our communities today would deny the Lordship of God – if they were sincere? If they were totally honest? If they were asked?

I don’t think we’ll ever know unless we, like John the Evangelizer, wander out of our Christian bubbles of comfort and safety and start asking the questions that beg our attention.

Sure, there are great liars out there. But not so many, I suspect, as we might think.

There are those whose god is themselves.

There are those whose god is their appetites and passions.

But there are those who are just waiting to be approached.

To be looked at. To be asked. To be LOVED.

To BELONG.

With hearts (not pants) on fire, may we demonstrate today that we are lovers (not liars).

(And spread the news from the telephone wires!)

K.I.S.S. L4L.10

Keeping it Simple

Image by mike cogh via Flickr

The WORD

‘Don’t think you need a lot of extra equipment for this. You are the equipment. No special appeals for funds. Keep it simple. And no luxury inns. Get a modest place and be content there until you leave. If you’re not welcomed, not listened to, quietly withdraw. Don’t make a scene. Shrug your shoulders and be on your way.’” Mark 6:6b-11 (The Message)

The disciples of Jesus had been walking in His dust for awhile now, paying attention to His teachings and learning how to be like their Rabbi. Now it was time for them to put on their sandals and walk in His footsteps. Let’s read their commissioning and instructions again, in the New International Version:

Calling the Twelve to him, he sent them out two by two and gave them authority over evil spirits. These were his instructions:

‘Take nothing for the journey except a staff – no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. Wear sandals but not an extra tunic. Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town. And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave, as a testimony against them.’”

This had to be an exhilarating AND anxious time for the followers of Jesus. On the one hand, Jesus thought they were ready to do what He did! The chicks were ready to leave the nest! Try out their wings! Go on a field trip!

On the other hand, Jesus wasn’t going with them. What if they were met with a demon that wouldn’t leave, or a sickness that wouldn’t be healed? What if people questioned their authority or snubbed their witness, saying that they were only wanna-be-ministers (after all, they were fishermen and tax collectors by trade)?

At once they had to feel energized and empowered, inadequate and concerned. Did Jesus really know what He was doing?

Religious tradition has always dictated the procedures by which ministers are prepared and approved. Some are based in Scripture. Some are the ideas of men. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference.

Jesus set the precedent with these students of the Gospel – a precedent we would do well to pay attention to.

The APP

He’s the BOSS!

The authority by which men and women are called into ministry belongs to God alone. In this story of preparing, commissioning and sending, we can identify four qualifications of a minister of Christ. He/She must be:

  1. Filled with the Spirit’s authority and power
  2. Called to this particular work
  3. Instructed in the nuances of this particular work
  4. Commissioned to GO as a witness, testifying to the Gospel and grace of God.

Are you surprised? Where does it say I need to attend Bible College? Don’t I need an M.Div. behind my name? Isn’t there an internship program I need to sign up for? What about the certificate that should be hanging on my wall?

Who does the filling? God does, through His Spirit.

Who does the calling? God does.

Who does the instructing? God does. In the case of the Twelve, it was Jesus – the Word become flesh. In our case? The Spirit & the Word.

Who does the commissioning? God does. As it was with the Twelve, He’s the only One who can know when we’re ready to GO.

Let Him Bring Home the Bacon!

One of the names of God from Scripture is Jehovah Jireh – The God Who Provides (or, literally, The Lord Who Will See To It). Jesus’ instructions to His inner circle set them up to see first-hand that God will meet all of their physical needs while they minister in His Name. Food? He’ll take care of it. Money? You won’t need it. Extra clothing? Unnecessary. If you have a need, it will be met. Because God is just that good.

K.I.S.S.

Keep It Simple, Sister! (Well, that may not be exactly the way you remember it, but you get the idea.)

Jesus’ instructions to the Twelve weren’t very complicated, were they? Not much room for guess-work. Not much room for confusion. The call to ministry – any area of ministry if it comes from God, is almost always going to be simpler than we thought it would be.

The parameters set by Jesus for this ministry experience were short and sweet:

  • You have authority.
  • Carry a stick.
  • Wear sandals.
  • Stay in the first place that makes sense.
  • If people listen, keep talking.
  • If people don’t listen, walk away and don’t look back.

It’s hard to imagine that Jesus’ youth group could mess this one up! We, on the other hand, make it SO COMPLICATED… Don’t you see that if the details of our ministry boggle our minds, maybe it’s because that ministry is OURS, not GOD’S?

No Drama Queens, Please

Rejection smacks. It hurts! It stings! And it often brings out the worst in us.

Jesus says, don’t take it personally. It isn’t about you. It’s not your concern. Do your best. Speak the truth. That’s your mission – leave it at that.

  • If they listen, stay.
  • If they don’t listen, leave.

No tears, no heavy sigh, no big scene. No Drama Queens, please.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen some pretty intense theater in the church; some painfully complex ministries; some extremely ‘fat’ program budgets; some terribly bossy followers.

Is it any wonder that what we do instead fails to heal bodies, send demons packing and restore the spirits of the broken?

If we believe that Jesus’ way is best, I don’t understand why we continue to do life (and ministry) our way.

Do you?

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Dark Monday L4L.08

Porchlight

Image by matthileo via Flickr

The WORD

You are like light for the whole world. A city built on a hill cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and puts it under a bowl; instead he puts it on the lamp-stand, where it gives light for everyone in the house. In the same way your light must shine before people, so that they will see the good things you do and praise your Father in heaven.Matthew 5:14-16 (The Good News Translation)

We’re far too familiar with these words, Lord. Wake us up to Your LIVING WORD today! Make Your words leap off of the screen and into our hearts as we read them again…

Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand – shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16 (The Message)

I heard a seminary professor say, in a recent meeting, that WORSHIP should be REHEARSAL for Christians, so that they are prepared to perform their faith when they leave the building on Sunday mornings.

Yet, in many of our churches, worship is actually a performance.

Think about it. Even if it makes you squirm, you have to admit that there are elements of performance in much of how we have allowed our worship services to be shaped.

Rows and rows of benches or chairs, all facing the front of the room.

Elevated platform in the front, where the speaker(s) stand to address the listeners.

Microphones are given to those who are prepared to speak and sing.

We pick up an outline of the service when we enter, which is given to us by an usher.

Should I go on? Because it seems to me that the only ones rehearsing anything in many Christian churches on most Sunday mornings are the pastor and the praise team, and maybe the lay reader and the acolyte. The rest of us… well, what do the rest of us do?

The APP

‘Dark’ is a theater term which means that a show does not have a performance that day. You might say that most churches are ‘dark’  Mondays, meaning that the planned, organized, communal gatherings of Sunday morning are over for the week. If someone walks into your church looking forward to worship on a Monday morning, in all likelihood they are out of luck. The lights in the office may be on, but the sanctuary, as they say in show biz, is ‘dark.’

Now, this is actually okay if we subscribe to the idea that worship is our rehearsal time – that the main event for those who follow Jesus begins when we exit the building. After all, for church buildings to be dark on days other than Sunday ought to mean that the real action is out there – at my workplace, in your home, on our streets, in our neighborhoods.

Isn’t this what Jesus is saying in Matthew 5:14-16? Doesn’t He tell us that each one of us is here for the purpose of bringing the Light into the world?

If church is our staging area, then it should be dark Mondays! And Tuesday – Saturday, for that matter.

What we don’t get from Jesus in this text is an invitation to go dark in our real-time faith walk. In fact, quite the opposite is said…

We are light-bearers!

We’ve been put on a lamp stand!

We’re like a city, up high on a hill, shining its light warmly in the night!

Light for the whole house – the whole world!

Jesus is telling us that our life of worship – everything we say and do in front of others – should look and sound like the old Motel 6 commercial: We’ll leave the light on for you!

Newsflash, my friends: church itself is not the light. We are.

Resist the urge to do what many who attend worship on Sunday will do again, today, when the light of their witness in this world gets shoved under a bucket so that their own show can go on. Fight the temptation to go dark Monday.

Instead, be brave and watch the Light in you illuminate every room you enter, every car you travel in, every conversation in which you engage.

I think Jesus will enjoy watching us take His words literally today.

I think He loves to watch us SHINE!

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SHOUT! L4L.05

The WORD

“What I tell you now in the darkness, shout abroad when daylight comes. What I whisper in your ear, shout from the housetops for all to hear!” Matthew 10:27 (New Living Translation)

“Eventually everything is going to be out in the open, and everyone will know how things really are. So don’t hesitate to go public now.” Matthew 10:27 (The Message)

Sometimes we, like Elijah, identify our God as the still, small voice in the aftermath of life’s disasters. Jesus confirms that God’s voice is often a whisper in our ear rather than the booming baritone hailing from the clouds (with lightning) that we might wish for in our times of need.

There is power in these two sentences for those of us who are in the dark. Jesus will speak to us in our darkness! He will whisper in our ear, even as the rest of the world vies for our attention in less subtle, more obtrusive ways.

The APP

Maybe these words of Jesus are a clue for us today. Some of us find ourselves asking again and again: How can I recognize God’s voice?

Part of today’s application of the Word may be a tuning of the ear. An adjustment of the radar. A cluing in to the way God often speaks in the lives of His people. If we’re expecting to hear God in big and mighty ways, we may very well miss His gently delivered words as they fall on us in silence. But if we’re listening for the still, small voice, well, there He is.

There’s a second part to applying Jesus’ words from Matthew 10:27. As challenging as it may be for us to listen for His whisper, the bigger challenge still is to share those whispers with others.

I don’t know about you, but I have heard some pretty profound, difficult and surprising things from God in the dark. Things that sound pretty crazy. Words with the potential to push a lot of buttons for a lot of people – followers of Jesus or not. How many of us would be willing to take words that were whispered to us in times of quiet intimacy and shout them from the rooftops, for the whole world to hear?! Yet this is exactly what Jesus is saying we must do.

What God says to us in intensely personal times of connection is not for us to keep. This text is a reminder that someone else is in need of the words we hear from Him – someone whose ear may not be tuned to His voice yet – someone who needs His message desperately, and the only way God can speak His whisper to them is through you and me going public now! So often we choose to internalize God’s Word and leave it at that – never sharing, never starting conversation, never breathing out loud what God has spoken inside. But this is not faithful living in light of Jesus’ words today.

If we are serious about being Literal 4 Lent, we must not only pay attention to the clues Jesus gives about the way God speaks, but we must be willing to go all the way, delivering God’s words with a rooftop SHOUT!

Sharing our impressions of God.

Sharing our experiences of God.

Sharing our intimacies with God with anyone who will listen.

Yes, a time is coming when all of this will be revealed and God Himself will lay it all out there for the world to hear and see. That time has not yet come. Our call is to go public NOW, without hesitation.

Tell your God-stories!

Share your epiphanies!

Wrestle out loud with the difficult words He has spoken over you!

There is someone who is listening for your sacred SHOUT today! Don’t keep them waiting.

Just let it out.

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