Leftovers

Leftovers salad

Leftovers

I walked away from the conversation with face still flushed, pulse still elevated, thoughts still racing.

Don’t get me wrong – it was a necessary conversation. One which I would have regretted not having, despite the intensity and confrontational nature of the thing. One which was brought on by something so deeply seated that I didn’t realize how strongly I felt until the words started flowing.

You recognize the feeling. You’ve had this conversation, too.

In the car, on the way home, I sorted through my thoughts about the matter…

  • What had been accomplished?
  • What had been resolved?
  • What had been aired and not settled, and can I be okay with that?
  • How had things been left, as we parted?
  • Is the relationship intact even if the differences remain?
  • Are there any leftovers?

You know, LEFTOVERS… Unsettled feelings. Unresolved issues that will resurface again. And again. Pin-pricks from words that were meant to be hurtful. Emotions still swirling, and the uncertainty as to where they will finally land.

Leftovers.

Like those leftovers you keep in your refrigerator; the remnant of a meal, perhaps a meal shared. Or a meal enjoyed. Or a functional meal – one that met your caloric needs without any extras or frills.

You see, the thing about leftovers is that they do serve a purpose, but it’s a limited purpose. A purpose with an expiration date. A purpose with a deadline. Leftovers are destined to be disposed of.

If the ‘meal’ is the conversation I had today, it was something I needed to eat. I will absorb that which my body needs to maintain health, to give me strength and to increase my energy to cover the output I will inevitably be required to produce. This ‘meal’ served its purpose, whether it was fun to eat or not. Maybe the company at the table wasn’t choice. Maybe the food didn’t taste quite like it should have. Maybe it wasn’t the most delicious feast I’ve ever consumed.

In the car, driving home, the meal is over. It’s time to decide what to do with the leftovers.

I might throw it all in the trash now – I’m not very good at using leftovers wisely (or it just wasn’t that good the first time).

I might save it all for later – it was more than I could digest in one sitting.

I might save just the parts I want more time with – the stuff worth chewing on again.

I might put it in the frig, which means I’ll have to reheat and revisit it sooner than if I place it in the freezer to preserve it longer; to extend its impact on me.

Regardless of the choice, the fact remains that leftovers go bad. Keeping them around too long results in things like ugly, smelly (greenish) growths or less than appetizing separation of ingredients. Consuming leftovers that have been left over too long can make you sick. Really sick. Even if they appear to be okay, your leftovers can make you miserable inside.

Holding onto leftovers which have passed their safe usage date is never a good thing. Even if you have no plans to reuse or rehash them, leaving them in the frig takes up space you could be using for the good stuff and might even taint the rest of what you plan to use for another meal, another day.

Why take the risk? Use your leftovers while they still have value and can still be put to good use! And remember – every leftover has a shelf-life. Some shorter, some longer than others, but no leftover is good for you forever. Pay attention to what you’re allowing to take up space in your frig. In your freezer. In your head. In your heart.

Eventually, all of our leftovers stink.

By the time I reached the driveway and found the key to my front door, I had settled on a few leftovers worth keeping. For awhile.

But I don’t intend to hold onto them too long. I don’t intend to wait until the leftover goes bad, gets rancid, grows fuzzy green hair and is transformed into something I don’t recognize. I will reheat them, chew on them, use them up and then dispose of my leftovers when their contribution to my life has been exhausted.

Trash the stuff that will only serve to make us sick and stain our Tupperware.

We’ll be healthier for it, my friends.

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Taking My Cues From Jason Bourne

Jason Bourne

Jason Bourne (Photo credit: Michael Heilemann)

These days, I’m thinking Jason Bourne.

Jason Bourne knows what it takes to really go ‘off the grid’ and disappear. This is something I’m interested in, because I do it so poorly. I try to set aside time to study and pray, and my best efforts are sabotaged time after time. So… I watch Jason, and I learn.

Jason Bourne knows that technology is almost never your friend. Technology has ways of giving others more access to you than you really want to give. If smashing your phone to pieces seems a bit extreme in an effort to gain a bit of ‘quiet time’, you’re not alone. Really – YOU ARE NOT ALONE! Jason Bourne’s enemies used nearly every form of techno-gadget to track him down – don’t you believe for a moment that God’s enemy won’t do the same. A telephone ringing, a computer alert sounding… anything to shift your focus from what really matters onto something that, well… really doesn’t.

You may never have had a day where going off the grid was a life-or-death decision, but if you had, you would most certainly have bought a box of hair color. Changed your look. Chopped off a few pieces of hair. Because if you want to fly beneath the radar of the enemy, you don’t want to advertise. You want to blend in. I learned this from Jason Bourne, so when I know that I need to be avoiding the enemy, I lay low. I don’t make plans. I stick close to home and I try not to stand out. I humble myself and I do what I have to do. It isn’t glamorous, but one day it just might save my life.

Jason Bourne knows how to run. He doesn’t let himself become a sitting duck – he keeps moving – always at least one step ahead of the enemy. Some of us are easy targets – we’re predictable. We panic. We freeze up instead of turning up the heat. Some of us would do well to follow the example of Jason Bourne, who knows when to walk away and clearly knows when to run.

Like it or not, Jason Bourne also knows how to fight. I don’t really think it’s his first instinct, but he won’t hesitate to let the enemy have it when it’s his life that’s at stake. Some of us have been avoiding the fight at all costs. Some of us would rather pretend there isn’t even an enemy. Not Jason. He knows he’s a target. He knows that the enemy will stop at nothing short of taking his life. He knows, so he fights when he has to so that he can stay free.

I have to wonder what my own life would look like if I were to take my spiritual cues from Jason Bourne?

  • It takes time and energy to go off-grid – and it’s worth the effort every time.
  • Don’t sell out to technology – use it, don’t let it use you.
  • Nothing good comes from trying to stand out – you’ll get further with fewer obstacles when you forego glamour and embrace the humble life.
  • Don’t become an easy target – run in a zigzag motion and keep ‘em guessing.
  • Choose your enemy wisely and fight with your life to stay free.

(closing credits theme music)

The Pentecost Prayer Marathon (a PINK Tuesday post)

Prayers

Image by Xerones via Flickr

A number of years ago, in the midst of a season of unprecedented awareness of the power and presence of the Spirit of God, I gathered a group of women together for what became known as the Pentecost Prayer Marathon.

A marathon, as you may well know, is an endurance race that measures out to be 26.22 miles long. It has quite a history, the marathon, going back to the Battle of Marathon and the Greek soldier Pheidippides – a messenger who ran the distance from the fabled battleground to Athens in order to proclaim their victory over the enemy (in a battle which he himself had also fought). A feat which he did, as the story goes, without stopping until his pronouncement had been heard (at which time he fell down and died).

More than 500 marathons are run every year. Athletes prepare for months for this race which, for many, emerges as a defining moment of glory and achievement in a lifetime of athletic endeavors. I’m not really sure where the connection between 26.22 miles of road and a miraculous outpouring of Spirit-presence came from, but I began to wonder about what it is that drives a person to such a strenuous undertaking as the running of a marathon. I began to marvel at the dedication and intense preparation of marathon runners. I pondered the fruit of such an athletic commitment – maybe a medal? Certainly feelings of self-satisfaction!

But I am not an athlete.

No matter how hard I try, I just can’t imagine enduring the pain and maintaining the focus and discipline needed in order to run this kind of race (as much as I admire those who can and DO)!

On the other hand, I CAN appreciate the value of the LENGTH of the marathon. Yes, it is long. But it also has an END. A finish line.

I find that people (myself included) often function better with deadlines. Can you relate? When I diet, I am a maniac at following the rules! I almost NEVER cheat, because I can see the results AND I know there is an END – a goal – in sight. When faced with a huge project (say, writing curriculum for a retreat), I ALWAYS do better work as the deadline looms larger. There’s a date when this work must be presented, and the closer that event is, the more efficient I am at staying focused on it.

Anything I want to do better CAN be done better if I assign a goal or deadline to it!

This may drive one person to successfully finish a marathon, another to lose those last five pounds, and yet another to finish a project that has been pending since 1992.

Can the same be true about PRAYER? Can I be more effective and focused in prayer if I designate a sort of ‘finish line’ for it?

My hope is that you will find, as I have year in and year out, that the answer is an absolute YES! Herein lies your invitation, then, to join me in my annual marathon – my PRAYER Marathon – purposely connected to the memory of the Spirit-bath Jesus’ disciples and followers received when His promised Friend arrived on the scene, thousands of years ago.

Be mindful, though, that this marathon of prayer isn’t about ME. It isn’t about what I can do, what I think I need, or what I think is important to God. This Prayer Marathon is about the power unleashed in the lives of believers when the Holy Spirit is given room to breathe His mystery and comfort and momentum into the very lives of those who seek Him. Today.

So… here’s how it works! The Prayer Marathon begins on Saturday, May 26th at 8:00pm. It ends at 10:12pm on Sunday, May 27th (the day we celebrate Pentecost and the coming of the Holy Spirit). In case you missed the connection, the Prayer Marathon lasts for a total of 26.2 hours.

For the sake of focus, there are four stations to pass through during the Prayer Marathon. Each one is designed to help us focus on a particular area of prayer/need. Designated times are just suggestions here, so don’t get too legalistic about them! Simply use them as a guide and allow God to move you through the Marathon to the finish line – the celebration of the arrival of His Presence with us!

Prayer Station #1: 8pm on Sat. May 26th

Focus your prayers on preparing your heart to receive all that God wants to pour out in YOU! Seek scriptures that connect the work of God in His people. Include times of confession in these early prayers. Invite God to move in your heart. Ask Him to show you what a life of discipline and focus on the things He cares about might look like. Ask Him to surprise you as the Marathon unfolds!

Prayer Station #2: Dawn on Sunday morning, May 27th

Intercede on behalf of those in your family, your church and your community. Make a list of those whose needs are greater than the resources you have to meet them. Take your time and ‘download’ any/all prayer concerns or requests you might have on behalf of those you know and those you love.

Prayer Station #3: Sunset on Sunday evening, May 27th

Intercede on behalf of those in our culture, our nation and our world. Bring to God your concerns for the people who live near and far, in familiar and unfamiliar places. Use a map or globe as a tool for your prayers! Consult websites for agencies like International Justice Mission, World Vision or Wycliffe Bible Translators. Identify specific places and people groups whose issues and needs tug at your heart, and lift them up in prayer. Light a candle on their behalf. Let your prayers shine light into their darkness as only God can.

Prayer Station #4: 10:12pm on Sunday evening, May 27th

REJOICE! Revel in the faithfulness of the God whose Spirit is ever-present in THIS DAY. In THIS MOMENT! Thank Him for His promises and celebrate His presence! Take note of what this Marathon has brought your way, taking time to write down your impressions and His responses to your cries. Ask yourself: what is the ‘medal’ He wants to lay across your shoulders, now that you’ve completed this Prayer Marathon? Is it a fresh awareness? A clearer vision? A deeper passion? Pay attention to the fruit of your commitment!

If you choose to pray this marathon with me, I invite you to pray these words from Habakkuk throughout the journey. Because the rushing wind and tongues of flame didn’t just come and then go. The Spirit of God is moving still, and something in me says that this is what our prayer should be…

“Lord, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, O Lord. Renew them in our day, in our time make them known.” -Habakkuk 3:2a

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!’

 

Spiritual DNA (a PINK Tuesday post)

DAVOS/SWITZERLAND, 24JAN08 - Bono, Musician, D...

Image via Wikipedia

Last week I sat with my parents at the computer, exploring all of the amazing data that the simple act of a cheek swab can produce. If you’ve got the inclination, a minimal amount of time and a way to foot the bill, you can have your DNA unraveled by experts who will translate the complex coding in your deoxyribonucleic acid into terms you can both understand and appreciate.

It’s fascinating, really, to wade through the vast amount of information available through a simple DNA test! Not only can you see potential health issues and risks, but you can weigh those against the health-related concerns that you are at a decreased risk to acquire. Somehow, the highly intelligent scientists and researchers can actually show you on a map where the roots of your bloodline can be traced to. You can even opt to make contact with others who have had their genetic code deciphered and whose DNA places them in relationship to you!

This is actually the part that excited me the most, as I looked through my parent’s test results last week. One column on the results page listed famous people whose DNA is closely linked with ours

And when I saw Jimmy Buffett and Bono on the list, so many things in my life finally began to make sense!

My love for story (any self-respecting Parrothead knows what I’m talking about).

The tug on my heart toward a life marked by simple pleasures and deep wisdom (things that we don’t learn in school).

The tension of being in the world but not of it (which Bono personifies to the nth degree).

The intensely spiritual nature of our distinctly physical existence and the ways in which we dance between the two.

The increasing awareness within my own life of the issues of justice and global community, and the threads of Spirit that connect us across oceans and borders and boundary lines (oft embedded in the missional musings of U2).

There’s a yearning inside of me for those things that my DNA-cousins Jimmy & Paul have artfully woven into music that you and I can sing along to, almost without realizing just how well we know the words. Things like relationship, community, meaning and purpose, taking ourselves less seriously while considering the value of others, simplicity, transparency, and peeling back the protective layers that keep us from personally experiencing the rawness of living fully-exposed to the elements, come what may.

Who knew that our physical DNA could unearth connections like these?

In the most basic terms, DNA is the master plan of life that works all the way from inception to growth. It holds all of our hereditary information and passes it along from generation to generation. Our DNA contains the instructions needed for an organism to develop, survive and reproduce.

In a physical sense, we are the sum of our DNA building blocks. While the majority of our DNA is remarkably similar to the DNA found in others, there is just enough uniqueness to make me distinctly me and you distinctly you.

The same is true, I propose, of our spiritual DNA.

Physical DNA is, first of all, hereditary. Passed down from countless generations without our input. Received, not requested. Given, not acquired.

Spiritually, we are all recipients of a sort of DNA which holds the basic information about who we are and where we came from. This spiritual DNA points to the roots of our existence, revealing the Master and His plan for redemption that includes every single living, breathing being throughout the course of time. We didn’t participate in the creation of this DNA, yet it was placed inside each one of us when the Spirit breathed life into our lungs and invited us to become an integral part of the ongoing work of God in this world. We didn’t ask for it to be given to us, it was all gift.

Within this spiritual DNA is all of the information that is needed for each of us to develop into God-connected people! As with physical DNA, however, to carry out these functions DNA sequences must be converted into messages that can be used to produce action (physically, to create proteins, which are the complex molecules that do most of the work in our bodies).

What this means to me is that each one of us is already filled with all of the God-given DNA needed for a spiritually thriving life! Every man and woman who draws breath has been endowed with all of the tools to git r done in the Kingdom of God!

Why doesn’t everyone, then, develop into fully-formed spiritual beings whose life is drawn from the abundantly available life-source Himself?

And, if spiritually there is more about us that is similar than that which is unique, why do we land all over the spectrum when it comes to our interpretation of that common DNA?

Maybe it’s all about the messages. If physical DNA does not send the message that creates action in the way of proteins, there’s a breakdown in the system. Our bodies fail to get the message. Our DNA is unable to do its work.

If our spiritual DNA fails to be converted into messages that invoke action in the living of our lives, there’s a breakdown in the system. The work we were created to do remains undone. We may fail to develop and grow in healthy ways. We may neglect the connectedness of our DNA to others, instead choosing to hold on with a death-grip to our minute distinctivenesselevating what sets us apart from others over that which knits us together.

The Good News on this PINK Tuesday is that ACTIVATION is available today! The catalyst Himself comes at our request, bringing new life to dead places. Speaking truth to those who have known only lies. Scattering messages of hope and promises of growth like seeds, which take root and spring forth into actively living, growing illustrations of what it looks like to have good spiritual genes!

And we know what good genes look like, right?

(Can’t you see the family resemblance?)

Security Breach (a PINK Tuesday post)

Computer Space (1971)

Image by Laughing Squid via Flickr

I’ve just received the fifth email warning today, informing me that my email address has been pirated by an ‘unauthorized person’ outside of the Epsilon system. Epsilon is apparently a massive e-mailing machine, but I’m awfully glad I don’t own their stock today as I open email #5 from yet another apologetic company.

“We are confident,” my emails read, “that the information that was retrieved did not include any customer account or financial information.” And I’m shaking my head now, asking no one in particular if that’s supposed to make me feel better – more secure, more safe – now that some dishonest hacker has information about me from FIVE different sources?!

Are you kidding me?

How should one react when their security has been breached?

In the case of Epsilon’s failure to keep my personal information secure, I’ve been instructed NOT TO REPLY to requests for login ID’s or passwords. In fact, it is advised that I do not reply to ANY email asking for any sort of personal information, because now that security has been breached, I just can’t know who I can trust. Better to remain skeptical of everyone, reporting suspicious activity to the ‘How To Report Fraud’ hotline, right? At least that’s what the sincerely apologetic emails in my inbox tell me.

Honestly, this is what I tend to do when my emotional security has been breached, too.

Don’t reply.

Hole up in my own little world.

Be a skeptic.

Doubt everyone.

Trust no one.

A breach in trust may warrant such responses! After all, there isn’t a Fraud Hotline when it comes to the suspicious (and sometimes malicious) activity of people. If I’m to protect myself from further breaches, I have got to be proactive by sandbagging and boarding up the windows and doors. There is no way that I’m exposing myself to the elements of betrayal and dishonesty again.

So I change all of my passwords and shut down my operating system. No one gets in.

Dr. Roland Summit, a leader in the medical field and faithful advocate of the sexually abused child, had this to say about the effects of such abuse in children:

“The uncertainty of sorting out enemies from friends impairs the emotional security of victims and their advocates.”[1]

Whether our trust has been breached dramatically through abuse or more subtly through neglect or broken promises, the result is almost always impaired emotional security. Can anyone be trusted now?

On this PINK Tuesday, consider the security breaches you’re reeling from.

Who has broken your trust?

Who has betrayed your faith?

Who has failed to live up to your belief in them?

Where have you fallen victim to emotional pirates, who have taken your innocence as plunder?

These are difficult things you’re dealing with. Lost friends. Broken marriages. Runaway children.

God’s Word for you and me, and our words for those who seek to hack into our joy, sound something like Joseph’s response to his traitorous brothers in Genesis 50:20:

“Even though you meant harm to me, God meant it for good, to achieve his present end, the survival of many people.

Joseph lived his entire life sorting out enemies from friends.

He didn’t hole up in his own little world.

He fought the urge to become a skeptic.

He chose not to doubt everyone.

He overcame the temptation to trust no one.

In the end, he was able to redeem those who had breached his trust and discarded him, body and soul; to stand and say that God meant it all for good.

Will you?


[1]Murphy, Edward F.: Handbook for Spiritual Warfare. Nashville : Thomas Nelson, 1997, c1996, S. 467

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!)

To Be(rean) or Not To Be(rean): THAT is the Question (a PINK Tuesday post)

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Pastor/author/speaker Rob Bell has a new book hitting the shelves today, and the religious community is astir. Words like radical, universalist, false prophet and heretic are erupting from the mouths and the laptops of many whose closely-held interpretations of Scripture are being challenged in Bell’s controversial book, Love Wins: A Book about Heaven, Hell and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived. Surprisingly (or not), many of those whose criticisms are already raging have yet to actually read the book.

Several years ago I took my women’s study group through a book written by atheist Christopher Hitchens. Some of my group would tell you that they were cautiously skeptical when the study began – it felt almost like heresy to even open the book, God Isn’t Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, but we did.

We bought used copies – most of which had been removed from the shelves of libraries. We read it. We discussed it. We cross-referenced the author’s references. We looked things up and we broke things down.

It was one of the most eye-opening and faith-building exercises I have ever engaged in, and I think I can tell you why…

Questions are Inevitable

When we willingly choose to take on the challenge of examining Scripture in light of a different worldview or theological perspective, we can state with absolute certainty that “if you read it, they will come” (the questions, that is).

It is questions – not answers – that draw us deeper into the mystery of that which is worth knowing.

The more I have learned about the God I worship and the Savior I follow, the more questions I have;  the less I seem to know.

Sometimes we are paralyzed by our state of not knowing, especially when we’re so full of questions that we wonder whether God is even find-able. Yet Psalm 34:10b says that “God-seekers are full of God.”

Some of us seek answers, while some of us seek God. There is a difference.

Those who push against the comfort level of the frozen chosen often find themselves on the sharp end of a critical tongue; full of something, all right, but whether that something is God or something more pungent depends upon who you ask. As we mature in our faith, struggling with what we believe as it rubs up against the faith of others, we begin to respect and even appreciate the questions. And the ones who are brave enough to raise them.

There is Safety in Numbers

Community is critical in the working out of our faith. Thinking people easily fall to the temptation of that fateful tree, choosing the illusion of knowledge over the gift of faith. Challenging one another to think and study and find words for the ideas taking shape inside our heads is invaluable to lives being lived for the glory of God!

Often these snapshots of community look more like a train wreck than a garden; the faint of heart need not apply themselves to such experiential efforts. It takes guts and a ravenous hunger for God to drive a man or a woman into community and keep them there.

Self-preservation is thrown out the window when one chooses to become part of a community of faith; a limb or an organ in the Body of Christ. Here we are equipped to tackle the tough stuff of life and faith in authentic and life-altering ways, and we do so alongside others whose imperfections and mis-directions may very well drive us insane. It’s in the tension of community, though, that we are given perhaps the clearest picture of the God we cannot see with our eyes.

In the end, those who have fought long and hard to be an island and have lost are those who are more able to articulate what it is that they have found.

Acts 17:9-12 tells the story of itinerant preachers/missionaries, Paul and Silas, and the people of Berea.

The people there were more open-minded than the people in Thessalonica. They listened to the message with great eagerness, and every day they studied the Scriptures to see if what Paul said was really true. Many of them believed.” (Good News Translation)

One translation says that, as a result of their searching the Scriptures, many believed. The Bereans were known for their need to test the words of men against the Word of God. They were commended for it! You and I probably believe that what Paul spoke to these faithful students of Scripture was provable by the Scriptures themselves, but we don’t hear about them using their findings to beat down those whose message seemed to be inconsistent with what they had found in the pages of God’s Word. They simply tested everything, and many of them believed.

How many of us can say that this is the way we have chosen to approach the study of the Bible, the things of God?

How many of us who are quick to condemn a teaching or a teacher can honestly say we’ve studied the Scriptures – exhaustively – for ourselves?

How many of us are basing our beliefs on someone else’s say-so rather than on the authority of the revealed Word of God?

There are plenty of believers who are choosing the road of condemnation and name-calling these days. Let’s not be one of them.

To Be(rean) or Not To Be(rean): THAT is the Question on this PINK Tuesday.

Mama Needs a New Pair of Shoes… REALLY? (a PINK Tuesday post)

I just stepped out of my closet.

My head is hanging, because I thought it might be effective to poke fun at myself and my obvious obsession with shoes. I figured that, if I wanted to really make a strong argument for the case of the damage done by our excesses, I should begin at home with MY excess. And my excess (well, one of my excesses) is SHOES.

55 pairs of shoes. (Not counting slippers.)

And those are the in-season shoes; I didn’t include the box of footwear stored in my garage, waiting for summer weather to come before occupying space in my closet.

On this PINK Tuesday, I’d like to propose that we have been consumed by consumerism. This good idea has gotten the better of us – even those of us who purport to following Jesus of Nazareth, who almost certainly owned no more than the shoes He wore on His feet.

Not that we’ve had to be persuaded, mind you. Most of us have been willing participants in our society’s economy. The problem is, the control that is in our power to exercise over our buying decisions has been unwittingly assigned to the standards our society has set.

The standard of COOLNESS. The standard of TRENDINESS. The standard of a CULTURE whose mantra clearly is: MORE is MORE.

No one really NEEDS a 56th pair of shoes, and if the fact that I WANT a 56th pair of shoes is reason enough for me to lay my plastic money on the counter, then the ills of consumerism are further-reaching than we once thought. What I thought would be good fun – counting the kicks in my closet – has left me with a sour stomach and a headache, not to mention embarrassment about my apparent self-centeredness.

What makes me think that I could possibly NEED another pair of SHOES?

Why is it that I’m so susceptible to the suggestion that buying yet another pair of shoes is in my best interest – a good idea?

Three possibilities come to mind today, as I struggle with being a subject in the Kingdom of God and a resident in a society that doesn’t know when enough is enough…

SHOPPING as PAIN MANAGEMENT

Let me be the first to admit to having used shopping as anesthesia. I won’t even attempt to count the times when I have chosen to anesthesize my pain, stress and feelings of inadequacy by indulging in the comfort of consumerism. I’ve been amazed (clearly) by the power a new pair of shoes has over my temporary miseries. I can go for at least one good day beyond a shopping trip before the mileage gained from shopper’s euphoria returns to pre-purchase levels. When I’m feeling shallow, this can be all it takes to ease my pain. But today, my pain comes from all of those purchases that look pretty shallow now, in light of the real needs of the people around me.

‘WANT’ is the new ‘NEED’

Somewhere along the road, we’ve gotten things all mixed up. We’ve gotten SPOILED. With the resources we’ve been given, we have successfully elevated our perceived needs to a new level, so that when we WANT something passionately, we’ll use the word NEED to communicate our eagerness to have it.

I need a new Ipod, Mom.

I need seat covers for my car.

I need a vacation.

Mama needs a new pair of shoes… REALLY?

Few of us know genuine need, only ‘wants’ dressed up in ‘needs’ clothing. Scripture illustrates God’s feelings on the subject, by using the word ‘want’ (as a verb) only 8 times in its 66 books (and most of those references are in the ‘thou shalt NOT want’ vein). On the other hand, the Bible discusses ‘need’ at length in its 45+ uses of the word. Clearly, God is more interested in our NEED than in our WANT:

“And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19

If a simple thing like our word choice can communicate to others where our true riches lie, then it’s time to pull back to the basics and call our NEEDS what (most of them) really are: WANTS. Nothing more.

MINE!

The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, but does that include my 56th pair of shoes? Those shoes are actually MINE, right? I work hard to earn every dollar that I spend, so when I swipe the money card and sign on the dotted touchpad, those shoes belong to ME! And yet, if pair #56 is God’s (not mine), how likely is it that He is as eager as I am to see those sweet shoes stored on my shelf, waiting for just the right occasion? Would He not prefer to see me share His shoes (or the money I would have spent on them) with someone who has a genuine need to survive (unlike me, whose need for shoes is classified under ‘want’ whether I choose to see it that way or not)?

In Confirmation class this week, we experienced a frenzied search of the scriptures for passages dealing with hospitality, compassion and giving. One student uncovered this verse, not knowing how great an impact it would have on little old me:

“He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.” Ephesians 4:28

If the purpose of my paycheck is to have something to share with those in NEED, well, my whole concept of what is MINE and what is GOD’S (and what is YOURS, for that matter) is all shook up. Ownership takes on new meaning if I subscribe to Paul’s suggestion that everything on earth is actually God’s. How, then, can I make the decision to buy pair #56 with a clear conscience, knowing that my heart is not beating as God’s is for the poor?

GROW UP

“All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you.” Philippians 3:15

The path of consumerism threatens to consume me and you, and yet God has made it clear that He has a better way for us to live. It may sound silly, but I’m appalled at my own insensitivity to the condition of the people in the world all around me, in light of today’s shoe count and the resources those purchases represent. Suddenly, I’m wiggling in my seat and I’m VERY UNCOMFORTABLE. I don’t want to be like the rest of the world, whose “destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame… Their minds on earthly things.”

But there’s far more to life for us. We’re citizens of high heaven!” Philippians 3:19-20

Time to start acting like it.

Time for me to grow up.

(Anyone with a size 6 foot in need of a pair of shoes?)

Welcome to my Mid-Life CRISIS! (a PINK Tuesday post)

Nautical star tattoo

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You think I’m kidding, but I’ve never been more serious.

I WELCOME YOU to my MID-LIFE CRISIS because I’ve learned that ‘the more, the merrier’ is as practical as good counsel gets, and the one thing that my mid-life crisis has failed to produce is ‘merry’ of any kind.

‘Merry Christmas,’ we say.

‘Eat, drink and be merry,’ we say.

No one ever says, ‘You’re FORTY?! Well, Merry Mid-Life Crisis!’

Welcome back to Pink Shoes Ministries’ PINK Tuesday forum! Our topic for today is about as clear as crystal AND as clear as mud, which I’m sure you’ll relate to as you take a few minutes out of your busy day to read on.

My hope is that you’ll join me on the other end of this discussion, chiming in by way of comment, either here at wordpress OR on our facebook discussion board (see blogroll to the right).

Let’s get this party started by exposing one seriously foundational and ridiculous misunderstanding:

CHRISTIAN WOMEN DON’T FREAK OUT.

I totally disagree. Whoever decided that Christian women are somehow exempt from such delightful rites of passage as mid-life was never a forty-something wife / mother / daughter / daughter-in-law / employee / sister / friend. Your own particular brand of crisis is bound to vary from mine, but there are common mileposts along our journey’s path. How much we’re each affected by them probably depends on how fast we are traveling when that milepost flies by.

Crisis Milepost 1: PANIC

That’s right – we panic. Exact age at time of panic attack may vary, but most of us will at some point begin to panic upon the realization that we’re running out of TIME. The pressure we put on ourselves to make something of ourselves can create a fresh urgency to perform in ways we haven’t been compelled to act before.

I find myself asking the question: Have I been type-cast? Like an actor who always plays the same character type – only the location and situation seem to change – am I really stuck with who I’ve made myself to be? Is this all there is and ever will be for me, in my work? At home? In my relationships? Will my contributions to the world never exceed what I’ve given to the world thus far? What’s a forty-something girl to DO?

Get a tattoo?

On our twentieth wedding anniversary, I not-so-jokingly suggested to my husband that we ought to get matching tattoos. That, or join the Navy. He was much more open to the tattoo idea, but fortunately I never had to test him on that (some of you, my good friends, talked me out of it). Still, every time we drive past a tattoo parlor, he asks me if I’m ready yet and we share a good laugh. (Truth be told, though, honey – we’re not out of the woods yet!)

Panic. The Apostle Paul knew about people and panic. He talked with them about it in 2 Corinthians chapter 7, beginning with verse 9:

“Now I’m glad – not that you were upset, but that you were jarred into turning things around. You let the distress bring you to God, not drive you from him. The result was all gain, no loss. Distress that drives us to God does that. It turns us around. It gets us back in the way of salvation. We never regret that kind of pain. But those who let distress drive them away from God are full of regrets, end up on a deathbed of regrets.”

What we do with our mid-life panic attacks paves the way for the second half of life, to follow God’s clearly marked path OR to ease on down the wide road in the opposite direction. If we will invite God Himself into our worry over the gap between our life-expectations and our present reality, He will move us into the way of salvation. It may require a sharp turn here and there, but God is faithful to use our distress to draw us closer to Him. Paul is so sure of this that he concludes his thoughts in 2 Cor. 7 with these words:

“And now, isn’t it wonderful all the ways in which this distress has goaded you closer to God? You’re more alive, more concerned, more sensitive, more reverent, more human, more passionate, more responsible. Looked at from any angle, you’ve come out of this with purity of heart.”

May our personal PANIC produce PURITY like that!

Crisis Milepost 2: STUCK

Remember the game ‘Statues’ that we played when we were kids? Someone would swing us by the arm in circles until we were terrifically dizzy, then they would let go and we were to ‘fall’ into a pose and hold it – like a statue. I recall holding the pose for painfully long periods of time, waiting for my playmates to guess what kind of statue I was.

Some of us are asking: Is this ALL there IS? This ‘pose’ I’m stuck in? And the weird thing about being stuck in mid-life is that even when life is GOOD, there’s this bleak gloom hanging overhead that tells us this is as good as it will ever get. I’ve known this party-pooper to present itself as depression or disappointment, grieving a future that for some reason we believe is gone. Because we’re knee-deep in the muck and we don’t see any way out. Because that’s exactly where the enemy wants us to be.

God, on the other hand, knows that we tend to buy into the lie that OUR goals and agendas are the only ones worth living and dying for. When our life’s mission is all about achieving our purposes, chances are we’re going to be disappointed. The goals we set for ourselves, independent of God, are very unlikely to be reached.

When we’re attuned to the work of the Spirit in our lives, however, the goals and agendas that we find ourselves attending to are tailor-made to fit the Kingdom-subjects we are becoming!

“God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” 2 Cor. 9:8

Stuck sounds like the opposite of abounding to me. God is ABLE, even when I am not. No matter how I feel about it. That’s GOOD NEWS!

Next week we’ll dive deeper into the depths of my own mid-life crisis (you’ll need scuba gear next week, I’m afraid). In the meantime…

How do YOU deal with the panic and stress that mid-life creates? What good counsel can you give – or have you received – that helps you make your way through life in spite of depression and disappointment?

Please SHARE your wisdom and questions with me! You are, after all, WELCOME here – in my mid-life crisis!