Archive for April, 2017

On finding ease and grace in the climate of obligatory indignation

April 30th, 2017 by Maureen

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be removed from you, along with all malice. Instead be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another as God in Christ forgave you. Eph 4:31-32 (Mounce)

Basically, in this little clinic on attitude toward, and interaction with, other people the goal is being “not this,” instead “this.” Sadly, in my opinion, the “not this” largely describes the current social and political climate of our country right now. Anger can feel more powerful than love. Kindness is often cast as weak and ineffectual, or interpreted as not caring enough; so we enter the fray. The boiling unrest in our hearts and minds surfaces and turns mean.

It’s helpful to look up the definitions of the Greek words to get a fuller picture of what is being said.

This:
kind (chrēstos) – easy, good, gracious, benevolent
tenderhearted (eusplanchnos) – compassionate, sympathetic, full of pity
forgive (charizomai) – willingly, freely bestow favor, do a favor, let it go

Not This:
bitterness (pikria) – stinging, caustic, stinking poison, wickedness
wrath (thumos) – outburst of passion, venting rage
anger (orgē) – vengeance, indignation
clamor (kraugē)- outcry, loud crying
blasphemy (blasphēmia) – speaking evil, vilification, damaging speech
malice (kakia) – viciousness, spite

Apparently the “not this” part is also difficult to independently separate from. It has to be removed (airō) from (apo) us by Christ.

remove (airō) – to raise upward, take off what is attached, carry away, to cause to cease
from (apo) – spatial sense of “away” or “apart” 

Sometimes even after a weight has been lifted we can feel as if it’s still pressing down and respond accordingly. Be aware that Christ separates us from this toxic climate and infuses us with His own powerful yet easy confidence that we really can communicate and affect change from His climate of love, kindness, and grace.

Lord, help me to come at every situation and engage in every conversation from Your climate of grace.

Who are you to say…

April 29th, 2017 by Maureen

Now I have become foolish; you have forced me [by questioning my apostleship]. Actually I should have been commended by you [instead of being treated disdainfully], for I was not inferior to those super-apostles, even if I am nobody. 2 Cor 12:11 (Amp)

Anyone can have insight. Anyone can contribute valid ideas. Anyone can ask cogent questions. Anyone can offer viable suggestions. Paul seems to have had to establish his right to speak and the validity of a message coming from him before anyone was willing to seriously entertain the message itself. People applied their own cultural and personal filters and biases for the apostles and against Paul to Paul’s message of grace and inclusion. Certainly there should be a process for vetting ideas. There is a need for expert opinion and for authoritative sources of information. But there also has to be room for innovation, inspiration, and revelation and willingness to examine the filters and biases that affect how we receive ideas. Who are your “super-apostles”?

Lord, give me the grace to really listen to and consider the messages that people I meet are communicating with me.

Awe-filled but not awful

April 28th, 2017 by Maureen

Because of Christ and our faith in him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God’s presence. Eph. 3:12

Certainly we should approach God with awe because He is, after all, God. At the same time He is a Friend and a Father who infused His own image into His human creation. He made us eternal souls and reconciles us to Himself is so that we can experience a confident, familiar relationship with Him. Jesus used the word “in” as well as the word “with” to describe this relationship with the Father.

Father, thank you for this awe-filled relationship I experience and enjoy in You and with You.

Questionable

April 26th, 2017 by Maureen

No one could answer him. And after that, no one dared to ask him any more questions. Matt. 22:46

Is blind obedience the same thing as trust? The Pharisees didn’t want to be questioned. They didn’t want to consider or receive what Jesus was saying so they asked rhetorical questions they thought would trap Him into saying something they could use against Him. Instead of answering, Jesus answered their questions with questions they couldn’t answer. This shut them up. Does this imply that God doesn’t want us to ask questions? I don’t think God doesn’t want us to be curious or ask questions, but I do think He wants us to trust Him and He knows why we have the questions we do. If Jesus followers had been unsatisfied with the Pharisees’ answers; had they not been curious and asked questions, the Pharisees would still be exerting unquestioned authority. When you trust somebody you can ask them anything.

Lord, thanks for all the questions that got me where I am now.

Is wonder a lost art?

April 25th, 2017 by Maureen

The Lord God only does wonderful things. Ps. 72:18 (OJB)

We have information and explanations about just about anything at our fingertips. We wade through doubtful and false information. We encounter novel and complex ideas every day. Images can be changed or enhanced so that everything is more intense than it appears in real life. Is all this minimizing our sense of wonder? God is just as amazing today as He always. No human progress can elevate us to the point that we are beyond experiencing such wonder at Him that it takes our collective breath away. We may have reached a point, though, that experiencing wonder becomes a deliberate choice.

Lord, saturate every one of my senses and every way I process thought with awareness of all that You are, all that You inhabit, and all Your handiwork.

Evidence of grace

April 24th, 2017 by Maureen

But if I do his work, believe in the evidence of the miraculous works I have done, even if you don’t believe me. Then you will know and understand that the Father is in me, and I am in the Father. Jn. 10:38

Jesus understood that His life presented unique evidence to support His message. His responses to the needs and pain of those around Him changed the way they perceived God and themselves. Ultimately His death and resurrection reinterpreted humankind’s relationship with God. For many people life’s experiences support a cynical, depressed interpretation in which the evidence suggests God, if He’s there, doesn’t care and that human lives are insignificant. The choice to love others, to provide help and support, and to show kindness and respect presents an alternative way of perceiving God, ourselves, and the world. We participate in Christ’s miraculous restoration through every piece of evidence for grace and hope communicated to others through us.

Lord, let Your love and grace be evident in my relationships.

Eternity in a chaise lounge

April 23rd, 2017 by Maureen

Today is a day in ATX when His invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, can be  clearly perceived  in the things that have been made. (Rom. 1:20)

There is ample opportunity to experience divine peace, serenity, and restoration by just stretching out on the grass or chaise lounge, closing your eyes, soaking up the sunshine and cool breeze and listening to the invisible choir of wind rustling leaves, birds and crickets chirping, and humans going about their day. Sometimes it is in the rhythms of the temporal that the patterns of eternity emerge. Sometimes we apprehend eternity in fully experiencing the joy and simplicity of resting in the momentary now.

Lord, may all my friends enjoy an eternal moment in this beautiful day you’ve made.

To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour. – William Blake

Unhealthy craving for a word brawl

April 22nd, 2017 by Maureen

If someone does not…adhere to the healthy words of our Lord Jesus Christ, that person is puffed up with conceit, understanding nothing, but has a sickly craving for speculations and fights about words…I Tim. 6:3-4

Jesus offers so many constructive and beautiful ideas for us to spend our time exploring, so many soul-sustaining experiences and interactions for us to enjoy. Why do so many people crave argument? When winning arguments over scripture (or anything else) becomes the main focus and purpose of our communication…that doesn’t seem healthy for anyone involved. I have a feeling Paul might have struggled with this craving too. The healthy words of Jesus were full of love and grace. He spoke healing and comfort to those in need. He spent time abiding with His friends. He encouraged others to embrace the freedom and connection with the Father He enjoys. Certainly Jesus challenged legalists who were so sure they had cornered the market on truth, but He wasn’t about enjoying the verbal beat down.

Lord, I want to crave love, grace, communion, and peace as healthy sustenance for my soul and to make debate the very occasional snack.

Compassion can be messy

April 20th, 2017 by Maureen

Compassion is a theme in the gospels. Jesus had compassion (Matt. 9:36, Matt 14:14, Mark 1:41, Mark 6:34, Luke 7:13, Luke 10:33) and said “be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate.” Luke 6:36.

It’s really easy to figure out how our troubles, or someone else’s, are a result of poor choices . Compassion is seldom convenient and frequently misinterpreted. Somehow compassion can be associated with excusing, endorsing, or enabling destructive behavior, but compassion is a restorative rather than a punitive reaction. Crawling out of a bad patch is messy for the person crawling out and for the compassionate people helping and supporting that person. Compassion is a core motivation in God’s interactions with us and a healing force in our interactions with one another.

Lord, hold my arms out and open when I feel the impulse to cross them and judge.

Don’t overthink it

April 19th, 2017 by Maureen

In the abundance of my thoughts within me, Your consolation brought me joy. Ps. 94:19

Obsess enough and legitimate but manageable concerns turn into worries. We can stress over every decision we have to make and second-guess the ones we’ve already made. All the details we have to remember seem to fly around our brains like mental gnats. But we need not deal with all this alone in our own minds. We have access to the mind of Christ, the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the creative power and support of our loving Father always with us, in us, and for us.

Lord, help me to stop overthinking and enjoy.

Life without the script

April 18th, 2017 by Maureen

For the law never made anything perfect. But now we have confidence in a better hope, through which we draw near to God. Heb. 7:19

Rather than continually struggling on our own strength to play out some humanly constructed version of “perfect,” saying our lines and standing on our marks, our lives become impromptu response to God. Right now, at this very moment, God sees each of us as perfect. Focusing on perfection is like going to an amazing show and spending the whole time looking at your ticket. We are, in fact, not only at the show, we are in the show, but it’s not a scripted performance. This show is not about playing our parts so well but about experiencing authenticity in being and becoming the art that the Artist is creating.

Lord, help me see, hear, and enjoy Your amazing show that I call “life.”

This means something

April 15th, 2017 by Maureen

For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of of the Father. Heb. 12:2

Jesus death and resurrection not only answers all the prophecy and symbolism of the Jewish narrative, His story also follows the plot pattern of mythic hero stories. Perhaps God put Jesus in a story that would carry universal meaning for Gentiles. This pattern is present in ancient myths all over the world. It’s obvious in epic stories, superhero stories, and even smaller stories about everyday life journeys.There is a somewhat universal pattern for a hero’s story in which the hero leaves home on a quest with great stakes and great reward; meets a mentor who helps and equips them for the journey; experiences a series of trials that force the hero to face the desires and temptations that hold them back. In other words, there is a physical journey to save the world and an inner journey to transform the hero to strip away fear and doubt – and fatal flaws that might hinder the quest. After a time of reflection and preparation the hero voluntarily enters the supreme ordeal willing to sacrifice themselves to accomplish the quest. In many of these stories there is a death and resurrection, either figurative or actual. The hero sacrifices everything to defeat the foe, experiences an actual or figurative death, and is reborn. The hero returns with a reward, an elixir that that restores and heals the world he left behind.

For Jesus’ horrific story of torture and death to make any sense at all the results accomplished by such suffering would have to be tremendous, and the prize, substantial. Victory over death, hell, and the grave, defeat of the forces of evil, redemption of the human race fits the bill for a worthy quest. The crazy cosmic plot twist is that the inner journey is something Jesus experienced vicariously for us while the physical quest was something that we experience vicariously with Jesus. An even crazier twist is that Jesus’ reward is us. We are the joy set before Him.

Lord, thank you for this most amazing redemption story.

What is now and ever shall be

April 14th, 2017 by Maureen

Now is the judgment; now will the ruler of this world be driven out. And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all to myself. Jn. 12:30-31

The death and resurrection of Christ was the most powerful and unique event in all the history of God’s creation. At that moment Jesus defeated death, hell, and the grave and change the present and future effects those ideas have on us. The power of sin is broken. For Jesus’ disciples, His crucifixion made it look like evil had won. We have the benefit of an Easter perspective. Yes, evil still has some temporary influence on this earth, but, we can trust Christ’s Easter victory with everything in our lives and the lives of the ones we love.

Lord, what You’ve already done informs the hope I have in what is now and ever shall be.

Newness

April 13th, 2017 by Maureen

But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) Eph 2:4-5

Spiritual death and resurrection is disorienting and transforming. Jesus died to save us from spiritual death and to transformation and newness of life. He rose to free us from spiritual tombs yet so many of us walk around spiritually alive but still somewhat wrapped in the familiar grave clothes of past wounds, dead sins, and past perceptions. Jesus wasn’t always recognized after His resurrection and we might not always recognize ourselves in our shiny new Easter skin either, but this transformed, resurrected self is who we really are now.

Lord, You are risen and because of You, so am I. Hallelujah!

Silly Rabbis…

April 11th, 2017 by Maureen

You killed the Originator of life, but God raised Him from the dead, of which we are witnesses. Acts. 3:15

Can you really expect the Originator of life to stay dead? Speaking to the people of Israel about Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, Peter points this out. Of course those who cried “crucify him” had no idea Jesus was the originator of life. They did, at the point when Peter was speaking in Acts, have evidence to consider that they didn’t have pre-resurrection. Too often we humans are more intent on preserving status quo and sticking to erroneous assumptions than entertaining the possibility that God might have some incredible experience waiting for us just beyond the changing of our minds.

Originator of life, thank you, for rising from the dead so that we might experience the life You originate through the renewing of our minds and reconciliation of our spirits.

Big words for bigger experiences

April 10th, 2017 by Maureen

But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption—that, as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the LORD.” I Cor. 1:30-31 NKJ

Wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption are big beautiful words that express the results of Christ’s death and resurrection. We become what we cannot be because of Christ. Every moment that we experience His transforming presence is a celebration of Easter.

Lord help me to venture deeper into your wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption.

What is church supposed to be anyway?

April 9th, 2017 by Maureen

When you gather for worship, each one of you be prepared with something that will be useful for all: Share a psalm, provide information, tell a story, lead a prayer, provide an insight… Take your turn, no one person taking over. Then each speaker gets a chance to say something special from God, and you all learn from each other.  I Cor. 1:26-32

Sound like Paul had a hard time reigning in all the active participants at worship gathering. The implication is that once church services were made up of active participants and active listeners. The real problem seems to have been competition because everyone was clamoring to share. Of course, if could be that that many just wanted to perform. Active listening seems to be a continuing issue for the human race. So now it seems we have designated performers and passive or distracted listeners? This “sage-on-the-stage” approach certainly controls the chaos, but offers little space for the active involvement that Paul describes.

Lord, I don’t know the answers but I ask for your insight, from wherever you send it.

The doldrums

April 7th, 2017 by Maureen

The wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit.” Jn 3:8

Some days we can feel like the wind’s not blowing. We might be in the doldrums but that doesn’t make us “unborn.” The wind is made of air and the air is always there. Every breath we breath, we breathe because God has put life in us and life is in us still. At some point that stillness will give way to Spirit wind again. I suspect focusing on God’s beauty and love, being with other people and doing things we enjoy is more likely to float us out than trying to analyze how we got there or trying to find the magic “how to” formula for change. How we feel or where we see ourselves does not alter Who God Is to us and for us.

Lord, I think I need fresh gust of wind.

Let it go, God doesn’t care like that

April 6th, 2017 by Maureen

In peace I lie down and sleep, for you alone, O Lord, cause me to dwell in confidence. Ps. 4:8 (YLT)

We probably wouldn’t say it out loud but sometimes it’s as if we think: “If I don’t worry about this, if I don’t stay upset or outraged, if I’m not losing sleep over this, then I must not care enough and I’ve minimized the importance of this problem.” God doesn’t care like that. Peace is foundational to the way that God cares.  Of course, God has the luxury of knowing how everything is going to come out and the power to make everything okay. Fortunately we are in Him and He is in us. We elevate the importance of anything we surrender to Him and increase the possibilities for solution. All we have to do is close our eyes and let Him shift the burden of carrying our concerns to Himself. God has it without the angst.

Thank you for this sweet, restful, restoring peace.

Conversation time

April 4th, 2017 by Maureen

Let all who are spiritually mature agree on these things. If you disagree on some point, I believe God will make it plain to you. Phil. 3:15

A mature discussion establishes tone and relationship before getting into content.  Our motives for  easily shift from standing in our truth and learning about where they stand to winning an argument or showing off our smarts. A grace-based, loving discussion is one that is patient, kind, and enduring rather than arrogant, rude, or intent on getting our own way. God is not threatened by questions or alternative viewpoints and neither should we be. The Holy Spirit is more effective than any of us at reconciling perceptions and misconceptions to reveal Who Christ really Is. The time and energy spent arguing is time that could be spent in gracious, loving conversation with people.

Lord, let love and grace be starting points for every discussion.