Charlottesville Thoughts…

charlottesville

 

By now you’ve heard the news stories about the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia this past weekend.  Once again, we are confronted with the reality we are a divided nation.  Can I offer persepctives as you think about Charlottesville?

  • Jesus said to pray for your enemies.  We are doing Jesus’s work when we condemn racism.  We leave his work undone if we do not pray for our enemies.  Pray for James Alex Fields who drove his car into the crowd, killing Heather Heyer.  Pray for God’s love to drive hate from his heart.  Pray for Richard Spencer, a leader for the alt-right movement.  Pray for God to call him to Jesus’s side.  Pray for others who find a twisted hope in the belief of white supremacy.
  • The core of Christian teaching is “In Christ, there is neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ… (Galatians 3:28).”  Every human being needs Jesus.  Once a human being accepts God’s gift of grace, he or she becomes a brother or sister in Christ.  Skin color doesn’t matter.
  • Racism and hatred are defeated by the strong determination of Jesus followers to love our neighbors as ourselves.
  • “Let not many of you become teachers… because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly (James 3:1).”  People who teach hate will be judged by God.
  • Events like this should cause a pause.  We must examine our hearts to see if there is an bigotry, any prejudice, any profiling.  If it is there, we must confess, ask forgiveness and ask God to teach us to love our brothers and sisters.
  • I now understand a new dimension of the commandment, “You shall not make a graven image in the form of anything in heaven above or earth below…”  People attach meanings to statues, beyond the original intent of the statue.  Now people are worshiping the monuments.  You worship something when you allow it to set the agenda for your life.  Sounds like what happened in Charlottesville.
  • People are attracted to the alt-right movement because they feel like no one understands them.  I wonder if Jesus followers have even made an effort to understand them, and envelope them with the love of Jesus?
  • Acts of Congress, speeches by the President, and political commentary does not change a human soul.  Jesus does.
  • Our country is divided.  Asking the other side to change their mind does not bring people together.  Serving each other in the name of Jesus just might heal our land.

Missing Grace…

grace 

It’s so easy to miss grace.  We miss grace when:

  • We have to prove we are right about everything.
  • We don’t take time to understand people, especially the ones that ignite our anger.
  • We forget God made us with the capacity for peace.
  • We make decisions from the broken parts of our soul, not the healed parts of our soul.
  • We let our passions control us.
  • We never stop and ask “God, what is your purpose for my life?”
  • We make ourselves responsible for someone’s bitterness.
  • We make all battles personal.
  • We decide to fight fire with fire and get even.
  • We forget country wisdom: “Never get in a fight with a pig; you’ll get dirty and so will the pig, but the pig with enjoy it.”
  • We sell out, thinking money is more important than grace.

Hebrews 12:15a says, “See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God…”

God’s people are to be people of grace.  God’s grace fills us and we share it with others.

How do we catch the grace of God?  We catch the grace of God when:

  • We realize it such a little thing for us to be right and everything for God to be right.
  • We seek to understand before we are understood (warning: this requires a mature soul).
  • We learn to be a peacemaker, which is the same as learning to be a child of God.
  • We let God heal all the brokenness of our souls, so our woundedness doesn’t wound others.
  • We give our passions to God and let Him control them.
  • We live out our God given purpose each day.
  • We refuse to own someone else’s issues; instead, we pray God’s peace for them.
  • We recognize most fights are about something besides what we are fighting about, so we seek to discover the real issue.
  • We let God handle making things even.
  • We stay out of the mud.
  • We prize grace above wealth, security, and status.

Wouldn’t you love to be part of a church, a group of God’s people, who daily catch the grace of God?

What are you doing to make church a place of grace?

Time for Peace…

time for peace

Chaos is quick; peace takes time.

I create chaos when I hurry.  I pack too much in my day.  This results in clothes not put away, a desk left a wreck, and meals grabbed on the run.  The house is chaos, my health is chaos, and I’m exhausted.

Peace requires time.  To live a centered life means carving time to put myself before God and listen, not just talk (ever thought about how chaotic our prayers are?).  Peace is found when I let the arms of God embrace me.   That means I have to sit still long enough to be in His presence.

It also takes time to think through my day.  The key to changing any human behavior is preparation.  If I want to lose weight, I need to prepare to eat well.  If I want to exercise, I have to prepare my schedule so I will have time.

Peace in relationships takes time.  It takes time to understand instead of blame.  Most of the anger in relationship is driven by urgency to fix this now!  What if I slowed down my urgency?  What if I trusted a different reality than the power of the nagging voice in my head that pushes me to solve an issue today?

It would mean I would have to clear out unimportant things, like pretending to have it all together; like trying to impress others; and like mindless time that is not restful.  Then I would have time to put things where they belong.  Then I would have time to listen.  Then I would have time to understand.

I’ll be the first to admit I don’t do this well.  But when I do, life is better in the peace groove.

Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid (John 14).”

The world gives you a peace that is the temporary numbing of the deepest longing of your heart.  Jesus offers you a peace that centers on him.  His peace calms your heart.  His peace drives out fear.  His peace is peace for the deepest part of your heart.

If you want true peace, make time for Jesus.

Chaos takes time too.  John Wooden, the greatest basketball coach ever, said, “If you do not have time to it right, when will you have time to do it over?”

If you don’t have time to do a relationship right, when will you have time to do it over?  If you don’t have time to organize your life, when will you have time to do it over?  If you don’t have time for Jesus, when will you have time for a do-over with him?

True Love…

true love

The True Love Quiz:

Q:  Do you miss him/her when you don’t see him/her every day?

Q:  Do you feel like you are in an endless whirlwind when you are with him/her?

Q:  Do you wake up happy because you know you get to see them in the day?

Q:  Do you love the way he/she spends money on you?

Q:  Do you think about him/her all the time at work/school/driving?

Q:  Does he/she make you think about puppies, walks in the rain, jewelry, and being in front of a fire in a mountain chalet, snowed in for a week?

Okay, I confess.  I ripped off the questions from some internet quizzes.  Most of these quizzes really tell you if you are infatuated.  They are less helpful telling you if you know true love.

Infatuation isn’t bad; for most of us, it’s where love starts.  Infatuation is an intense feeling of passion bordering on obsession.  Infatuation is fun.  Infatuation, however, is like a seed that sprouts quickly, but fades when the sun gets hot.  The root isn’t deep enough (hint:  Jesus told a story about this).

I’ve seen people get infatuated with God.  They have an amazing spiritual encounter.  That’s good.  It’s fun.  Their encounter opens their souls to God.  But passion fades.  The root never gets established.  Their relationship with God fades to a memory.

True love is not just burning passion, whether we are talking love for God or love for each other.  True love is the sharing of yourself and being selfless.

This is the love Jesus has for us:  “…the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).”

Try this True Love Quiz:

Q:  Do you love to serve him/her?

Q:  Does it bring you joy to yield to his/her wants?

Q:  Would you rather give a present to him/her or receive a present from him/her?

Q:  Can you let him/her share anger, sadness, fear, disgust, and joy with you?

Q:  What are you willing to sacrifice for him/her?

When I look at couples that are truly in love, I see giving, sacrifice, and maturity.  Love is wanting something for someone, not wanting something from someone.

All this applies to God’s relationship with you.  God wants something for you.  God wants to give you grace, forgiveness, and peace.

A True Love relationship with God happens when you love God back.  You want something for God, not just something from God.  You want to give to God, serve God, and be vulnerable with God.

Check your relationship with God.  Is it true love?

The Last Sleepover…

sleepover

Sleepovers were a way of life in my house for years.  When it was the boys, there would be all-night video game binges.  With the girls, there was giggling, dancing, and movies.  I lost count of the mornings I tiptoed over children sprawled out on the living room carpet, in the deep contented sleep of children exhausted by fun.

The sleepovers ended for the boys in high school, but the girls continued.  When Sarah left for college, I thought we’d seen the last of the sleepovers.

Sarah, my youngest, and two of her life-long friends – Heather and Noelle, reconnected earlier this summer.  They went out to eat and came back to our house.  When I got home, there were unfamiliar pillows and backpacks littering the hall.   Three grown young women were giggling on the couch.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“We’re having a sleepover!” came the reply.

“What are you watching?”

“The Hannah Montana Movie!”

A time warp engulfed me.  Had these young women slipped back to 5th grade?  All the signs were there: an open bag of chips, five plates and cups for each girl, and blankets covering everything but faces.

Just like in the old days, their desire to stay up was greater than my ability to stay awake.  I bade them “Good-night” and went off to bed.  As I faded into sleep, giggles continued.

It was the next morning when I realized things had changed.  They were all up at 7:30 (that never happened before, I assure you).  One had to go to work; another had to get ready for a trip; and another one had stuff to get done.  I offered to go get them doughnuts or Chik-Fil-A biscuits.  “No,” came the groans.  “We just want coffee.”

As they pulled out of my driveway, I thought of these remarkable young women.  I saw them grow up under my roof.  They’ve gone from playing with “World Traveler Barbie” to being World Travelers themselves.

In the crush of parenting, it’s easy to forget to be in the moment.  Older, wiser folks told me to enjoy the moments; they would pass too fast.  They were right.  Loving anyone means to be present with them.  Loving your children means enjoying the years that come by only once.

Our Father in Heaven is the perfect parent.  He teaches us how to “be there.”  One of Jesus’s names is “Emmanuel” – God with us.  God provides moments of joy and then celebrates them with us.

I admit I didn’t celebrate the moments as I should have.   But now, I miss the days of being the hero who brought the girls doughnuts (after sampling one or two for quality control).  I miss the days of them sleeping all over the floor.  I miss the days of dancing all-night long to “Dance, Dance Revolution.”

But for one wonderful night, there was giggling again.  There was one last sleepover.