Monthly Archives: January 2015

Amazing Kindness

Rather, love your enemies, help them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then you will have a great reward. You will be the children of the Most High God. After all, he is kind to unthankful and evil people. Be merciful as your Father is merciful.  Luke 6:35

God is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.

That is amazing.

When we treat “undeserving” people with kindness, THAT defines us as children of the Most High God.

The word for kind is chrestos — meaning kind AND useful.  There is no parallel in our language — no word that means you are kind and you are good at the same time.

So God isn’t just kind, his kindness is GOODNESS.  And when we are nice to those who aren’t going to be nice back — who are secretly thinking ugly things, who sneer, who are shallow, who only care about themselves or worldly pursuits — then we exemplify the goodness of God.

And more than this, the word for ungrateful is acharistos, meaning the exact opposite of charis, which is grace.  A person who displays charis extends favor to others, and freely forgives them.  The word denotes thankfulness.  So the person who is acharistos is the person who can’t give grace or favor to others, who is so caught up in bitterness that they cannot forgive, they cannot be thankful.

Such a person isn’t just ungrateful, they can’t see a way to be grateful, they can’t see a way to extend kindness.  Really, they can’t UNDERSTAND goodness, they have no point of reference.

It reminds me of a question I saw that someone posed to John Oakes: “How do we know God loves us when we don’t see that love, in fact we see our loved ones dying, and doors being closed?”

My answer to this question would be that God IS showing His love to them in numerous ways, every day, but they are missing it.  He gives us family and friends.  He takes care of our needs.  He surrounds us with beauty.  He allows us to know and worship Him.  All these things are evidence of His tender constant love.

So in being kind to the ungrateful and the wicked, God is giving to those who, in a sense, spit in the face of His love and attention.   It’s like this passage in Ezekiel 16 —

On the day you were born your cord was not cut, nor were you washed with water to make you clean, nor were you rubbed with salt or wrapped in cloths.  No one looked on you with pity or had compassion enough to do any of these things for you. Rather, you were thrown out into the open field, for on the day you were born you were despised.  “But I came by and saw you there, helplessly kicking about in your own blood. As you lay there, I said, ‘Live!’

I clothed you with an embroidered dress and put sandals of fine leather on you. . . . So you were adorned with gold and silver; your clothes were of fine linen and costly fabric and embroidered cloth. Your food was honey, olive oil and the finest flour.

But you trusted in your beauty and used your fame to become a prostitute. You lavished your favors on anyone who passed by and your beauty became his.

We have nice things.  We have good food.  For those of us who are disciples, God reached out and made us His children.

Really, we are the ungrateful and the wicked as well.  Do we really see?  Are we really appreciative for all the God does for us?  Do we love Him with all our heart, or other things as well?

Jesus goes on to say in Luke 6, “Be merciful as your Father is merciful.  Stop judging, and you will never be judged.”

When we realize God’s kind and good nature, how can we not be merciful to those around us?  Why would we point a finger at them and say they are wicked, when we realize how blind we can be, and how undeserving we are of His ministrations?

This morning, I am struggling because my feelings are very hurt.  Doing this study is like balm to my wounds.  How can I be so upset with this person and their supposed fault in what they did?  How can I not remember God’s gracious goodness to me?

It is as Ezekiel 16 concludes:

Then, when I make atonement for you for all you have done, you will remember and be ashamed and never again open your mouth because of your humiliation, declares the Sovereign Lord.

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Filed under Abundance/Greatness of God, Compassion

Now Organizing: Women’s Support Group!

Women'S Support Group2

Do you sometimes feel like you just can’t move forward?

Like you’ve prayed, read the Bible and tried to serve God, but didn’t get anywhere?

It could be that you haven’t resolved emotional issues.

Deep down in the crevices of our heart are pains that we’ve pushed aside and told ourselves we shouldn’t feel.

This weekly discussion group is designed to give us a safe forum to bring things out in the open; to discover and recover.

Organization meeting Friday, Feb. 6 at 10 AM. 

Moderators for the group include Marge Gross, Certified Grief Counselor.

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A Friend A Day #7 — Really Caring

Jonah cares more about the vine than the people.

Jonah cares more about the vine than the people.

I am at the stage of this challenge of sharing with a friend a day where I don’t just want to change my behavior, I want to change the heart behind the behavior.

It could be relatively easy to be carried along in the momentum of the new year and open my mouth more often for a few weeks.  But then life will happen.  I’ll get busy.  I’ll get distracted.  And my good intentions will go by the wayside.

I have to truly change from the inside out.

Our assignment at church this week, as we study out repentance, is to figure out, “What warning would the rich man of Luke 16 issue to your family/household?”

The story that’s referred to here is the rich man and Lazarus.  The rich man lives a life of wealth and comfort, while Lazarus is poor and hungry. After death, the rich man goes to a place of punishment, while Lazarus is comforted.  The rich man wants to go back and warn his family so the same fate will not happen to them.

I couldn’t think of what warning the rich man would give to me.  My first thought was that we need to care for the poor more.  That certainly convicted my heart right off.

But now it hits me that the real sin of the rich man was that he didn’t care.  He was all caught up in his life, and he didn’t even see the needs that were around him.

I, too, am all caught up in my life. I’m even caught up in doing things for God, so much so that I don’t have room in my heart to notice or care about the people all around me who are starved spiritually.

What did Jesus see?

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.  Matt 9:36

People are harassed and helpless.  As other translations word it, they’re “fainting on the ground,” “distressed,” “cast aside,” and “scattered.”  They might look like they have it all together, but they feel isolated, unloved, lost, discouraged and hopeless.  They’re beset by troubles on every side.

I am preparing to start an emotional healing support group, with the premise that many people have unresolved inner pain.  The irony is that I’m promoting this support group, without fully seeing the reality that this pain IS THERE.  It’s rife.  It’s everywhere.  It’s crippling people’s lives.

I need to care more.

I love this passage from Jonah, in which the prophet is outed for being more concerned about the loss of the vine that shaded him than the souls of thousands of miserable people:

Then the LORD said, “You had compassion on the plant for which you did not work and which you did not cause to grow, which came up overnight and perished overnight. “Should I not have compassion on the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left–and also many animals?” Jonah 4:10-11

I have more in common with Jonah than I think. Do I REALLY have compassion for others, that they don’t know their right hand from their left, that they’re floundering around in life with faulty compasses?

It’s so easy to think that status quo is okay.  In reading “REPENTANCE a Cosmic Shift of Mind and Heart” by Ed Anton, he reminds us of verses that show that complacency is a sin that the prophets railed against:

Woe to you who are complacent in Zion. . . You lie on beds adorned with ivory and lounge on your couches . . . You drink wine by the bowlful and use the finest lotions, but you do not grieve over the ruin of Joseph. Amos 6

 God wants me to grieve over others.  He wants me to SEE.  He wants my heart to be moved.

So I have still been sharing.  I had a great experience on Tuesday.  The bubbly server at a restaurant my choral group friends and I go to every week asked how my weekend was.  I shared about the two baptisms we had.  She got really excited and wanted to know more about our church.  She wants to come visit!  It was a conversation I stumbled upon,  I wasn’t even looking to share.  I just spoke about what was bubbling up out of me – the joy of what God is doing.

I talked on the phone yesterday with a woman yesterday whose number a sister had given me.  This woman has gotten herself into a horrible mess.  She is despondent.  It’s easy to see she needs help.

How much will my life be about these people?  It will depend on how much I see the need to help, and that it is up to ME.  Here is another convicting verse from a prophet:

They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. “Peace, peace,” they say, when there is no peace.  Jer. 8:11

 I need to be serious about this. People are wounded. There IS NO PEACE! No peace for me to get caught up in my life. No peace for others in their pain and self- made muddle.

When I really get this, when I live it, change will happen from the inside out.

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Filed under A Friend A Day, Repentance

Great is His Compassion

My sweet kitty -- out of suffering

My sweet kitty — out of suffering

So much has happened lately.

I had my cat put to sleep last week. It was really hard. I stroked her head as she went through the final indignity of being held down and getting the injections in her shaved leg.  The house seems empty without her.

We had two wonderful encouraging baptisms yesterday.  One of our good friends got married, and we watched the wedding over the Internet.

And there have been tragedies.  Close family members have a family member in the hospital.  One of those in our house church is out of town with her grandmother who had a mild heart attack.  I got the news last night that a brother who led a nearby sister church passed away unexpectedly.  I saw on Facebook this morning that the grandchild of someone who is loved by many of us is not doing well in the hospital.

It is so fitting that I have been studying out compassion.

Here is some of what I’ve read –

Then Moses said, “I pray You, show me Your glory!”  And the LORD said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.  Ex 33:17-19

 And he (the Lord) passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.   Ex 34:6

Part of the unapproachable holy glory of God is His compassion. It is one of the factors that make Him so awesome.

Look at how Ps 103 describes this —

Praise the Lord, my soul;

all my inmost being, praise his holy name.

Praise the Lord, my soul,

and forget not all his benefits—

who forgives all your sins

and heals all your diseases,

who redeems your life from the pit

and crowns you with love and compassion,

The Lord is compassionate and gracious,

slow to anger, abounding in love.

All of these things listed that we should praise the Lord for – forgiveness, healing, redemption, blessings — stem from His compassion. We should magnify the Lord with EVERYTHING IN US because His nature is divinely gracious, caring and merciful.

I see great examples of compassion all around me . I saw a post on the “People of New York” about one woman who got hooked on heroin, and can’t kick the habit. Hundreds of random people cared enough to comment and tell her to hang in there, that she could do it.

Our friend Jack wrote to the man who is going through the acute illness of his grandchild: “Our hearts are with you as you and your family endure trials and sickness. . . I have not walked in the challenges that are upon you, and you have lots of close friends; we all with one heart are on our knees thanking God for you and your family and asking Him to care for you. You are precious to God. We pray and we weep with you in your sorrows & trials . . .”

This is compassion – a heart that is deeply moved by the challenges of another, that is WITH THEM in grief and sorrow.  God created us to be a people who would resonate with one another.  We were never made to be a people unto our self.

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end.  Lam 3:22

By His mercies I have every benefit of my life — the breaths I take, my health, my redemption, a bounty of good things.  Out of His perpetual mercy He gives, and gives.

And as that wells up in me, I slow down, take a deep breath, and take time to feel what others are feeling.  I try to continue to the chain God started.

Life is to be shared.

Our new sister and brother

Our new sister and brother

wedding

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Filed under Abundance/Greatness of God, Compassion, Grace

A Friend a Day #6 – Trust and Joy

Our MLK service project -- pushing through and finding joy!

Our MLK service project — pushing through and finding joy!

I am still working on making a friend a day.

Yesterday I had coffee with a neighbor.  It was wonderful to get with someone my age, who has grown kids, and just be friends.  We talked about our lives, shared our struggles.  In keeping with my goal to not shrink back, I was real with her, telling her how I am trying to grow spiritually.  Then I talked about the spiritual healing group I would like to try to start.  She was interested!

This spiritual healing group has elicited more interest than all the invitations to church combined.  I got the idea after reading Spiritual Maturity: God’s Will for Emotional Health and Healing” by Cresenda Jones.  She recommended having a group to help individuals work through emotional hurts of the past that still have an effect on their daily lives.

Last week, instead of inviting the check out clerk at Publix to church, I invited her to be a part of this group.  The clerk was a placid middle aged African American woman who looked like she’d experienced a lot in life .  For the first time, I saw genuine interest in someone’s eyes, instead of shutters going up.  I felt like I connected, and had an honest relaxed (albeit short!) conversation with someone.  And the young woman bagging groceries listened intently as well, regarding me with clear light eyes, so I made sure to include her in the conversation.  It was a breakthrough!

My hairstylist was the same way.  I have been trying to build a friendship with her for five years.  She always seems friendly, but from a distance.  When I told her about the spiritual healing group yesterday as I was getting my hair cut, she told me to text her with more information.  She was unguarded, sincere in her interest.

It wasn’t all great like that.  I invited the clerk at Kroger, a tall young man who was friendly and conversational but never responded to my invitation to church as we talked.   I bypassed opportunities.

I actually have had some struggles lately.  Sometimes I have had zero motivation to do anything.  I’ve pushed through, but it’s been discouraging because I didn’t feel like myself.  I was so tempted to feel like I was failing.

But I think God allows us to go through hard times sometimes because it increases our compassion for others.  Just as Jesus had to become human so he could relate to what we are going through, we need to experience difficulties so we can sympathize with the weaknesses of others.

For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.  Heb. 2:17

And I love what Ann Voscamp said in “One Thousand Gifts” about going through trials: “all new life comes out of the dark places. . . Isn’t this the crux of the gospel?  The good news is that all those living in the land of the shadow of death have been birthed into new life.”

I have to trust when I am in a dark place.  The beauty of God is there in my barren moments, in my failures. His hand is still upon the worst of my times.  And when all my efforts seem like so much dust, His fingers are in the dust of my efforts.  I picture myself reaching and clasping those strong stable fingers.

Where shall I go from your Spirit?  Or where shall I flee from your presence?  If I go up to heaven, you are there. If I make my bed in hell, you are there.  If I climb upward on the rays of the morning sun or land on the most distant shore of the sea where the sun sets, even there your hand would guide me and your right hand would hold on to me.  Ps 139:7-10

Here are some scriptures that have encouraged me lately —

I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.  Eph 1:17 

This is my goal for the new year — that everyone would KNOW God better.

For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit”  Romans 14:17.

As I work on sharing my faith more, I realize what I really need to work on is trust and joy.  If I have these, the sharing will come.

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Transforming Time

IMG_5095

I only have this day

this holy moment.

It is a gift.

I am not owed.

Let not the piranhas

of worry

consume,

the undertow of emotions

take hold.

Let me just

in this breath

savor,

fill up

with the good

the sacred

the beauty hiding

in a thousand

simultaneous

scenes around me,

find joy

in each simple task.

Gracing

each moment

each day

with grace.

 

 

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Filed under Favorite, Peace, Poetry

A Friend A Day #5 — The Highest Value

Love this funny illustration of the woman who lost her coin.

Love this funny illustration of the woman who lost her coin.

People are God’s priority.  They have the HIGHEST value to Him.

“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?” Luke 15:4

“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coin and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it?”  Luke 15:8

Looking for the lost coin.

Looking for the lost coin.

These parables show how each person is so important to God that He would go after and search carefully for them, RELENTLESSLY, until the person is “found.”

Each person is so important, that when they are returned to a relationship with Him, there is jubilant celebration, “Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.”

Finding the coin!

Finding the coin!

What if I started regarding people as this important?

I am sticking to my friend a day challenge.  It hasn’t been impressive, but each day I’ve made myself get out of the house and go somewhere to invite someone.  I talked with the bank teller on Monday as I made the church deposit.  He goes to church with his sister who’s in high school.

I needed a new headlamp for my car so I went to Auto Zone. The man there was hale and hearty, moving energetically as we looked at my car and the offerings on the shelf, keeping a dialog going about which headlamps he put in his wife’s car.  I invited him to church and he told me where he attends.  I still told him how our church is like family, and we really try to put the Bible into action in our lives.  He may never come, but he listened with interest and took the invitation.

Last night Ken and I listened to some of an audio book by financial guru Tony Robbins.  He talked so much about how to be financially secure, and achieve your financial dreams.  He advocated that people put so much effort into this.  He went on and on, recommending all kinds of strategies

He said some good things and gave us some ideas we will implement,  but I thought, “What if we put this much effort into going after people, instead of going after wealth?”

I read in Luke 16:15, “What people value highly is detestable in God’s sight.” 

God doesn’t care about my new outfit, how I fix up my house, or my retirement strategy.   He cares about people.  In the story of the rich and Lazarus, Lazarus went to Hades because he valued his rich clothes and luxury more than people.  The shrewd manager discussed in Luke 16 was commended for using his financial power to build good relationships.

I have to see people as super important as well.  Each person I meet is my new best thing!  Each one has great value, and I want to learn to recognize that more.

Robbins recommended a multi-prong approach to creating wealth.

I have a multi-prong approach too.  Have coffee with neighbors.  Make time to have get togethers.  Be willing to broach the subjects I’m scared to bring up. Text and stay in touch with people.  Care about what is going on in their lives.  Follow up on women I meet.   Pray A LOT, with thanksgiving.

Sometimes, too, I just need to unclench the knot of trepidation in my heart that keeps me stiff and blank-minded as I interact with others.  I need to relax and open myself more instead.

But here is the thing.  All of these things can be effective, but the real thing I need is God.  I have to focus very clearly on the knowledge that it is God who WILL MAKE A WAY for people to know him.  He and only He can build the church.  Each step must be orchestrated by Him.

I can have FULL CONFIDENCE that we will break through the barrier, the place where we are stuck, and get to the place of our dreams.

My part must be in learning to delight in people as much as He does.

For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.  II Chron 20:12

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