In the world of business and commerce, a person doesn’t
advance to the next level without first mastering the basics. You don’t go from
dishwasher to sous chef until you can Julienne carrots and sauté an onion to
perfection. It’s unlikely you’ll be promoted from cashier to CFO without a CPA or
MBA—and both of these degrees require taking exams and passing them.
Why is it that in the Church world we give ourselves
promotions before becoming proficient at the most basic Christianity 101 skills?
So you don’t think I’m jabbing a finger at you, let me make
this personal and you can watch as I point at myself in the mirror. For the past three days I’ve read Luke 6:27-36 and I’m
wondering why I’ve let myself skate across this passage so many times in the
past—knowing what it says, yet failing to dissect it and apply each verse to my
life before moving on. I read “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,
bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you,” and I nod and say “Amen”
and keep on reading.
But do I? Do I love my enemies and bless and do good and
pray for those who mistreat me?
I think my cop-out has always been the intensity of the
words “hate” and “curse” and “mistreat.” I honestly don’t know of anyone who
sincerely hates me. (Here’s your chance to come forward if you do, and test my
love skills!) I live in a Christian bubble where I’m not cursed at or
mistreated. So I’m good, right? Moving on . . .
But what if the day comes that I’m face-to-face with someone
who hates or mistreats me because of who I am or what I believe? Will I be able
to respond with blessing if I haven’t come close to mastering the art of loving
those I don’t especially LIKE?
This week, I read a harsh post written by a friend whose
political views are the polar opposite of mine. What welled up in me as I read
her criticism of many people who share my views, was not blessing. My first
response was not to pray for her or find a way to bless her. My knee-jerk
reaction was to block her.
And then I read again . . . love, do good, bless, pray. And
so I take a deep breath and determine to do it.
And five seconds later admit I can’t.
Nothing in my humanness can respond to cursing with kindness
or criticism with grace. Nothing in my flesh is prepared to reach out in love
to someone who trashes my beliefs. And so I confess . . . Lord, forgive me for
even trying to do this by an act of
my will. Only You can do this. Holy Spirit, expand this stone cold hard, make
it pliable enough that you can love her through me.
I’ll be stuck on this passage for a long time. Come to think
of it, I will never master it. But maybe I’ll get better at responding with
prayer, with turning it over to the Master and getting out of His way so he can
love, do good, and bless through me.
Anyone else feel the need to stay in an entry-level position
a little longer, as apprentice to the Master, before moving on?
Our small group is doing a Kyle Idleman video study called "The End of Me." Thursday night we watched a testimony of a woman who knew God had called her to minister in a certain area, but after she got "the call," she waited on God in prayer for a year and a half . . . read more at Putting on the New.
I’ve always had a fascination for objects that have been around a long time. I pick up a silver spoon, slanted at the tip from years of stirring, and wonder about my grandmother’s favorite dishes . . . more
I’ve been sorting through old pictures and reflecting on the
past lately, thinking of all of the one-thing-led-to-another moments in our
That train of thought brought me back to 1968. I was a
selfish seventeen-year-old girl who broke up with her boyfriend and then was miserable
because of it. And then my father died suddenly of a heart attack, and in the midst
of my shock and sadness, the boy I’d hurt came alongside me and held me up. And BECAUSE OF THIS I was humbled and changed and grew up a little.
And BECAUSE OF THIS, we were married two years later.
Seven years later, in 1979, our two-year-old son fell off a slide. As I scooped
him up, I had no idea that God would use that one terrifying moment to direct
the course of our future.
BECAUSE OF THIS, we took him to a chiropractor. BECAUSE OF THIS, when my husband was laid off from his job, he decided to embark on a new career path in chiropractic. BECAUSE OF THIS, we moved from Wisconsin to Iowa and then to a new town in Wisconsin. BECAUSE OF THIS, we drove past a rustic sign pointing to a little white church. BECAUSE OF THIS, we became part of a wonderful Christian family.
BECAUSE OF THIS, our oldest son became a
counselor at a church camp. BECAUSE OF THIS, he met a beautiful co-counselor
and fell in love.
BECAUSE we moved to a place where we saw that sign and
joined that church, my second son was sitting on the floor in the basement of
his youth leaders’ home when a girl he’d never met walked down the stairs. My
son told his friend, “I’m going to marry that girl.” And so he did. And BECAUSE he was the little boy who fell off the slide and BECAUSE OF THIS had grown up
benefiting from the chiropractic lifestyle, this boy also became a doctor of
Also BECAUSE OF joining that church, my third son found his
best friend. And that friend had a beautiful sister. And pretty soon my son had
a new best friend.
And then another family joined the church and they had a
beautiful daughter. And my fourth son picked on her for years before the
teasing and laughter turned to love.
And, BECAUSE OF ALL OF THIS, we are the ridiculously blessed
grandparents of fifteen amazing kids and on Friday we celebrated 44 years of
Whatever you’re facing, remember that this--this painful or frightening or regret-filled season or moment--could be the spark that sets off a chain reaction that leads to blessings beyond anything you can imagine.
Do you have a BECAUSE OF THIS story?
Feeling shattered? Never doubt that God can use your brokenness. I'm sharing personal experience at Putting on the New.
I've been on an organizing binge the last few weeks--to the extent that I have my hubby worried I might be pregnant and nesting. Poor man is terrified!! ;)
When this urge to purge closets and drawers comes over me, I can be a little difficult to live with because I'm obsessed with doing it ALL NOW. I want everything in nice, neat labeled boxes TODAY. Add to that the fact it isn't just my junk I want to donate to the Salvation Army, and you have a recipe for marital tension.
When the obsession takes over, I have to have a "Let's be rational" talk with myself. Let's make a list, prioritize, and break it up into small, doable chunks. Let's decide not to exhaust ourself . . . or our husband's patience! The all-or-nothing part of my brain argues with the (teeny-tiny) logical part and then I give in and make the list.
It's far more rewarding to get out the red pen and cross off "organize top shelf" than to spew the contents of your closet into a pile and only make a dent in it by the end of the day.
This approach also works well for someone like me who is a slug when it comes to exercise. Years ago, a friend gave me a guest pass to Curves. I loved their system of half a minute at one station or machine, a brief rest, then half a minute on the next. What a breakthrough. I can do anything for 30 seconds! At home, I can spread it out over the whole day. Set the time for every two hours and exercise for five minutes. Repeat 6 times throughout the day and you've moved your body for 30 minutes.
I started using the "circuit" idea even for daily chores. Did you know you don't have to clean a whole bathroom all at once? Did you know you can clean the toilet in the morning and the sink in the afternoon? If you're really radical, you can spread it out over the whole week--one task a day--and start the cycle over again on Monday. Everything gets cleaned once a week and it never seems like a time-consuming chore. What a revelation to an All-or-Nothing!
I'm trying to apply the "break it up" method to my entire life. I had an ironic insight recently while trying to memorize Romans 12. When I read "Be transformed by the renewing of your minds," I want that--and I want it NOW! Change those thoughts. Now! But the only way I can memorize that whole chapter is in small chunks--a verse or two a day. Exactly the way I should be working on my thoughts. Today, I'm going to focus on letting no unwholesome (impatient, sarcastic) words set up camp in my head. Tomorrow I may work on selfish or judgmental thoughts. In approximately 30 years I should be close to a totally renewed mind!
This works for that Guilt List of all the people I haven't written to or called in way too long. One email or card a day is doable. One "let's do lunch" call a week is more than doable.
ALL OR NOTHING___________________LOGICAL PACING
- Where are you on this continuum?
- What are you facing that you need to break up into doable chunks?
- Any tips for a reforming gotta-get-it-done-now person?
If you’re reading this on a mobile device and you’d like to leave a comment, please go to the bottom of the Home page and click on View Full Website.
I was in a strange place, surrounded by people I didn’t know. I didn’t want to be there. And then a memory flashed–-my mom, talking about her joy bubble . . . Chatting about abiding in Christ and keeping joy in the midst of turmoil at Putting on the New today.
That year, the word God gave me was STRENGTH. I felt empowered by the word as I imagined how I would use it. Physically: I would exercise regularly, add strength training, and make healthy food choices. Mentally: I'd read more non-fiction, learn from the biographies of great people. Spiritually: I'd spend more time studying and memorizing scripture.
And then came a single sentence that opened a vein and siphoned every drop of strength. I couldn't breathe. Sobs came in waves, triggered by random thoughts, unexpected memories. The walls closed in. Questions ricocheted, waking me from a sound sleep. Why? Why? And eventually . . . What now? But no answers came.
Have you been there? Have you heard the sentence that brings the verdict: Guilty. Betrayed. Rejected. Ruined. Terminal. Alone.
I didn't have answers. I didn't have the faith to believe there would be joy in the morning. The future was forever altered because of the hole in my heart that would never fully heal.
But this I did know: Though I felt alone, I wasn't. Though I was powerless, he wasn't.
This wasn't the year God was going to increase my strength. This was the year I would lose it all. And he would show me his.
Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10
I wonder . . . how do those who live without that promise ever get to the point where they can draw a full breath? How do you go on if you don't know the One who will be your strength when yours is gone?
I wrote the above this morning, then found this song posted on Facebook by a man whose son committed suicide. Lord, without you we can't go on.
I woke with a sense of heaviness this morning. Much on my
mind. Family members suffering, relationships strained. I checked Facebook as I
got dressed to face the day. More heaviness—two sets of parents helplessly
standing by bedsides of adult children with life-threatening health problems.
Tears blurred my morning routine. God,
where are you in all of this?
This past Sunday we listened to possibly the best message on
suffering I’ve ever heard. Yet still, with this fresh on my mind, the question
returns. Where are you? As I sat down to pray, looking out on a white, cold world, a
seemingly random thought came to mind. A cold January day. 1999. Still reeling
from the horrific news that my sister-in-law had died in a head-on car
accident, I stopped at the house of long-time friends. As I sat and talked, she
brought a blanket and tucked it around me. And then a cup of tea. And
listening. When it was time to leave, he went out in the bitter cold and
started my car. Small kindnesses, but exactly what I needed at the moment.
The memory brought to mind other moments of grace: The year
my husband was laid off—walking out to the car and finding the back seat filled
with bags of groceries. That same year—an envelope in our mailbox. $10. No name.
Then there was the day I answered the phone to hear my son was in the hospital
in possible liver failure, and a friend—a person who is definitely not a hugger—grabbed
me in a bear hug and said, “I’m so, so sorry,” as I cried.
I think back on so many perfectly timed phone calls. “How
did you know I needed this right now?” Or “thinking of you” cards—how could
that friend have known when she put a stamp on that envelope that I would need
that encouragement today, at this moment, as I opened the mail?
Where is God in these heavy times? Right here. Showing his
love in touches of grace from an anonymous friend, a cup of tea from a sister
in Christ, a perfectly timed phone call from someone willing to listen.
Lord, forgive me for the times I’ve mislabeled acts of
kindness, failed to see them as your presence. And show me, today, who needs a
touch of grace. Use me—to hug, or write, or listen, or make that call. Or that cup of
If you’re reading this on a mobile device and you’d like to
leave a comment, please go to the bottom of the Home page and click on View
Discussing my thoughts on our love for shimmer and sparkle and our longing for a prince (and showing off my beautiful granddaughters) on Putting on the New. Come on over!