My God is Not a One-Trick Pony…

Pastors and Teachers–this one’s for you. Are these commonly part of your teaching?

  • “You cannot know how deep love can be until you’ve had your own children”
  • “The best training ground for sacrificial love is marriage.”
  • “It is only when looking at your own child that you understand the great sacrifice God made in giving Jesus as sacrifice for our sins.”
  • (any kind of variation of these)

Here’s the deal. God may have taught YOU deep love through the having of children. He may have taught YOU (and many others) sacrificial love in marriage. But is your God so small that He can only teach those concepts in those two environments?

Talk to me of adoption. Those are not “your own” children–yet God ties bonds so tight that if you ask any adoptive parent, they will know no difference in the kind of love they have for their biological children as compared to their adoptive children. If anything, there is greater love in the ache of the moments missed–the 1st birthday cake smash, the first day of kindergarten picture.

Talk to me of social workers who walk into squalor and evil and chaos, who pick up a child or children, and walk them out of chaos and into hope for different. They visit and revisit heartbreaking circumstances for the sake of children who are not theirs.

Talk to me about my own career–thousands of hours at all hours of the night helping students through situations I did not choose. Tell me I can’t know sacrifice when I walk away from dinner, or leave a restaurant, or duck out of church, because the phone rang, the student needed someone and that someone was me. Tell me of sitting in an office and watching the involuntary reactions of a woman sharing that she was assaulted–a woman, frankly, nobody believed–but those involuntary protective actions, they cannot be denied–and because I saw them, the entire course of her treatment changed. Tell me of standing in the yard of another student, waiting for the coroner to come get his family member…hours and hours and hours later–and these things never happen at noon. Tell me how my hours at hospitals, visiting a student who doesn’t rank as one of my favorite people, but someone needs to be there–and that someone is me because they lived in my “house” alongside 375 or 947 others, depending on what year and what university I was at during the time.

Tell me how I don’t know sacrifice. Tell me a 20-year-old firefighter donning protective gear and walking into a fire that he did not set to protect life and then property of people who won’t know his name–tell me he doesn’t know love or sacrifice.

Pastors and Teachers–stop making your God so small. Because by doing so, you limit the stories of the people you teach. You silence people like me. And you tell me every time that my God can’t possibly teach me these deep life lessons because I don’t fall into those small contexts for how you were taught those things.

It’s time…again?

Life. The older I get, the more I see cycles and patterns and how bits and pieces fit together to prepare us for each part of our journey. If you are a follower of Jesus, you can trust that each thing in life will be pulled together for eventual good–so even in the mixing stage of life, when pieces are all ingredients and not yet a meal, you can trust that eventually it will come together as a meal you will so greatly enjoy.

Sometimes life moments come as a result of percolating. A little bubble here, a moment there over the course of years comes to a head. A decision must be made: move forward in faith, settle back in complacency.

I cannot say I have always had faith to move forward when the opportunity first was made clear. And yet, in His infinite mercy, Jesus keeps coming, taking a different angle, a different approach. Sometimes my pause has resulted in a lost opportunity. But sometimes, in His love causing His desire to refine me into the best version of me, He keeps coming.

So a decision point comes…again. Something that has percolated for nearly three years is coming to a head–it is time to step out in faith, regardless of knowing where that road will ultimately go.

If Jesus is calling you to step, step. Trust His leading. Trust His hand. And trust His love for you. He would never lead you to a place that would not ultimately be for your good–His ultimate goal is your ultimate sanctification. Your best self will come as you surrender to His leading, submit to His refining of your self, and repentance from the sin that so easily entangles.

Let’s not wait until “again” happens–let’s take the step together. The people of faith are all in this walk together. Let’s wave each other on, hand each other a refreshment, and give some grace as we all step into new territory.

Life behind an 18-wheeler

I laughed today as I drove the highway, on the way to a family function. Lots of road equals lots of time to think. As I come up behind an 18-wheel, tractor/trailer, I sigh. I hate following them. You can’t see around them, you can’t see the road in front of them, and if there are over-road signs, you cannot read them until it is too late to make a lane change.

Don’t get me started about road spray in the rain and snow when driving behind one of these behemoths.

But today, I laughed. The life of faith often seems like following such a massive truck. We cannot see the road ahead, whether it turns right or left, and often hindsight is the only way to see the “signs” above the roadway.

But instead of annoying, dirtying road spray from a behemoth truck, we settle in behind our Savior. The Behemoth in this case is the Conqueror. He trampled sin and death. He rose from the grave and sits at the right hand of the One True God. Jesus has earned His behemoth status–and His road spray is a dusting of “follow Me,” a spray of “trust Me,” and when the storm is great, the overwhelming wash of “I am here.”

Jesus isn’t such a bad 18-wheeler to follow.

When Jesus Got Angry…

There is much ado going on in the Twitterverse in recent days. Someone wrote an inflammatory blog post whose nearly every sentence was insult after scathing description after baiting. Baiting the hook over and over, calling Christians with certain opinions name after name. Making comparisons that are absurd. And the foundational stream of it all was this–if someone came up with an interpretation of scripture that millions of scholars over thousands of years disagreed with, we should all just accept it. Or face the wrath of someone with a keyboard and a blog.

But that’s not my point. There will always be someone, many someone’s, seeking to incite. Seeking to poke you in the sore spot. Seeking to step on your toe, and when you look down, to poke you in the eye. Not limited to religious circles–someone is there just to throw a group into a tizzy. And laugh as the hissy fits abound.

My point–and my disappointment is this: WHY DO WE KEEP TAKING THE BAIT!?!?!

It’s called click-bait for a reason. An inflammatory headline, searchable names of every major name in Christendom fame right now, and inciting remarks. No hint of sharing love or Jesus or hope or faith. Just flat bait.

Let’s stop being stupid fishes. Let’s stop seeing the shiny flapper on the attractive hook. LET’S STOP TAKING THE BAIT.

Why are we so easily angered by people who clearly have no interest in a civil conversation? Why do we keep engaging at their level?

I am the youngest of three kids and the only girl. There was plenty of teasing and horseplay and sibling rivalry in the house. And it took years, YEARS, for me to take my mother’s advice and stop reacting. Stop taking the bait. The kicker was, I was such an easy target for so long, and the results of ignoring the poke weren’t immediate. It took a good while before the brothers finally realized that the bored reaction they got from me was going to be the only reaction they got from me. And so they moved on.

Amazing things happen when you stop taking the bait. There are “ministries”–and yes, I put them in quotes–that are based entirely on mocking people. It may not look like it at first blush, but as you read page after page of writing, or following their mean-spirited rants on social media, you start to wonder where the love is that they so demeaningly claim to demand from everyone? They spew names at people who believe differently than them–AND WE TAKE THE BAIT. We buy the book to refute the claims to write a response blog–AND IT ALL JUST FUELS THE BITTER, ANGRY, BAITING.

If you are really angry at the church, the Church, Jesus, God, pick a part of the Christian faith–and you really want to discuss issues, ask questions, I am all for it. Let’s talk. Let’s start by agreeing to disagree so we can get the trying to get you on my side issue out of the way. And let’s have a good old fashioned scholarly debate. Let’s cross-reference with scripture, with theological texts, with scholars. Let’s dig into the Greek and Hebrew. Let’s explore it together. I may never agree with you–but I will so love the process of learning how you think and what brought you there and how you are looking at things differently than I.

I love a good, well-intentioned debate. Especially when we both know we’re never going to agree. To me, that is the best kind of fun–let’s poke holes in each other’s arguments. But it has to be in good spirits.

Come at me with insults, and you’ll get a bored reaction.

Because here’s the thing. Jesus only got angry when his children were being swindled in the temple, the children were being kept from coming to Him, and the religious sect were mis-using and mis-interpreting scripture for their own gain. And in His anger–every single time–He pointed back to the truth. No name-calling, no inflammatory remarks for the sake of fame. He pointed people to God–period. He espoused the faith–period.

And when He was called names, He took it silently. When He was spit upon, literally spit upon, He received it silently. When He was accused of wrong doing where no wrong doing was done–He either calmly rebuked, or when His crucifixion was near, He said nothing.

It’s about time we start acting like Jesus. It’s about time we choose meekness instead of offense. It’s about time we keep our eye on the real prize, set aside these silly arguments, and stop jumping into the middle of dissension.

Let’s stop taking the bait.

10 years…

A decade. A lifetime of journals, but a decade ago, I put the words top ring and started distributing them. Groundswell began as a church women’s newsletter of short articles to encourage, empower, and equip the people of God to pursue and achieve the life God has planned for each of us.

Ten years. There are ups, there are interesting moments when your ideas are taken by another trying to present them as their own. I have struggled with how to write, what to write, where to write, where to publish, what to share here, what to keep for a future book. Who to let in my circle, who to let remain a measure removed.

The insecurities, the cruel words of the enemy roaring, trying to distract–sometimes temporarily succeeding, sometimes the taunts being laughed out of the room.

If you look at the long road of ministry, the road of using your gifting for the purpose God has provided, just start walking. If you stand nervous, walk it out. If you keep looking up, looking down, looking to the side, walk it out. If you trip in a hole, get up, brush off, and walk that out as well. Because, in wisdom from my father to my mother when she wanted grad school, “in ten years, do you want to have that degree or do you want to still be wishing you had it.” Walk it out. Keep swinging. That is what I share with you–just start walking. And in ten years, you’ll look back and be amazed at all that happened in the meantime.

–image credit: unknown