children, Christian, church, Encouragement, Faith, family, God, gospel, Jesus, loss, Spiritual, Uncategorized

We are they

He stood in front of me, his small frame literally quivering with energy. I knelt down so that we could be face-to-face as I welcomed him into the large group and helped him find a seat. He sat barely long enough for his feet to leave the floor before he got up, excitedly asking me if I knew who Voltron was and did I have a Voltron at my house? I told him I did not which seemed to concern him. But then, everything seems to concern or interest him. All the time. He must be the most animated and expressive and energetic young boy I have ever met!

It was about time to begin so I pulled him and his sister away from each other and toward me. Again, face-to-face, I tell them how happy I am they are there, but it’s time to take our seats and leave each other alone. Between every few words I am reminding them to look at me while we talk. This proves to be quite challenging as the ceiling, the carpet, the other children, and my bright pink nail polish are just too enchanting. I’m explaining to them that it will only be a few minutes they must sit before going to their class when he looks me straight in the eyes, completely focused. I’m feeling a measure of success as I finally have his attention and will surely have him seated soon. He’s leaned in so that we are almost nose-to-nose when I notice his expression – his brows are deeply furrowed and his eyes reveal what can only be described as alarm.

“Why are your eyes cracked???” he asked.

“What?”

“Your eyes are cracked!! I can see the red cracks!”

“Ohhhh…”

Yeah, he was focused all right. Hadn’t heard a word I’d said. I’m quite certain this little one is going to provide me a lot of writing material!

He, like many of the children I see each week, has the blessing of a good home and family that will teach him and train him to be a good person. They will invest in his character development as they eat and play ball and watch superhero movies together. He has generations of Jesus-followers who will love him and guide him, pray for him and with him. Oh, they will worry and wonder often what to do with all this energy, but they will exercise their faith, discern his gifts, and feed his soul with good.

But what about the others? The children who don’t have that.

xxx-police-tape-generic-photo

I am sick over the happenings of the last 10 days. Another school shooting. The news and every form of social media offer us multitudes of opinions, supposed solutions and blame. Lots of blame. Surely someone is to blame. Something is to blame. Let me blame some person, or people group, or organization, or corporation, or anyone or anything that will make me feel better, let me off the hook, because what could I possibly have done to prevent this?? THEY failed. THEY didn’t do what they were supposed to do. THEY should have stopped him!!

What if WE are THEY?

We didn’t know that shooter. We had no impact on him as a person. And that is sad. But what if we decided to influence our world proactively in an effort to thwart evil before it has a chance to take seed in the life of a young person? What if we invested in the lives of the children around us, in our neighborhoods and communities? What if we actually decided to live out the call of the gospel with a focus on young families, taking them under our wings to love and encourage them, being their “village” as they raise their children?

What if we stepped up to serve before someone came to beg for help? What if we sought out the places children gather so we could be Jesus to them, loving them and helping them become good people? What if we, God’s people, showed up in our churches and schools and community centers and civic clubs so often we would have to wait in line to serve? What if we sacrificed that hour of sleeping later on Sunday mornings and spent that time helping to teach little ones, or skipped the 2 hour movie we’ve seen over and over and invited a young family for dinner? What if we dared to volunteer in the activities hosted for teens so that we could reach that one whose family isn’t open to our offer of friendship, the one who’s afraid of an empty future? What if we actually believed that God has called us to serve, to help those in need, realizing that there is no greater need in the lives of our children, all children, than to know they are loved and that God has good plans for them?

We are they.

There are things to be done. Are you serving? There is no Jesus follower retirement plan. We are called to serve others until He calls us home. We can dare to step out of our apathy and complacency and into actions that have eternal value, here and now. This is how we give hope to the children, teens, and families of our day and time who are surrounded by the same evil reports you and I are struggling with. This is how we change our world.

…let us not love merely in theory or in speech but in deed and in truth – in practice and in sincerity. 1 John 3:18

We are they” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

 

Bible, Christian, death, Faith, God, gospel, grace, grief, Jesus, loss, sorrow, Spiritual, Uncategorized, worship

Led to brokenness

broken pottery*Kintsugi

Brokenness. No one wants to be there. We run from it. We try to protect ourselves. We try to hide. We often avoid those who are there, not knowing what to say or do. Human suffering is hard to see, hard to enter into with another, hard to bear. But sooner or later we are there ourselves, like it or not.

There is quite literally brokenness all around me right now – the piles of debris are slowly being removed, and what is left remains broken and empty. Lives have been turned upside down and there are no answers as to where the displaced can go, where will they work, how will they pay for their losses. Thousands of lives in limbo and I feel helpless to affect. My contributions seem but a drop in an endless sea of anguish and I am fighting the paralysis that inevitably settles in after intense crisis efforts have passed and the day-to-day tries to resume. I am at a loss as to what to do next. And I am not alone.

My frustration increases daily in this state of doing little, yet I find that I busy myself more with the mundane rather than get seriously alone with God. I know I need to. I know that is where I will find the answers I need. It is in His presence I will find joy and peace and rest. So what’s the hesitation? I know He will lead me to brokenness. I can go there voluntarily or continue an attempt to resist. But I will go there.

There is much to learn about Jehovah-Rohi, the Lord Who heals, when life leaves us wounded and broken. Psalm 147:3 assures us “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” and He calls us to Himself for exactly that. But what about those times He takes us into brokenness? We don’t hear much about that.

There is a surrender required in order to be filled. I cry out for more of Him – more understanding, more intimacy, more revelation – but room must be made for this more that I want. My will involved in any level of “self-preservation” must be broken if He is to be what others see in me. It’s not a new thing, just ask Jacob or Moses or Jonah or Peter. Or Jesus. He made it very plain –

For whoever wishes to save his life [in this world] will [eventually] lose it [through death], but whoever loses his life [in this world] for My sake will find it [that is, life with Me for all eternity]. Matthew 16:25 (AMP)

My opinions, my emotions, my desires, and even my own heartache, all must be laid down before Him in an act of obedient surrender. Dying to self. Not allowing self to dictate the steps of my life, but rather yielding to the brokenness that will cause my every natural impulse to become secondary to His. His Spirit within me longs for this brokenness to take place because He desperately wants me to experience Him at a new level. So I will yield. I will be broken. And I will be changed, reminded once again that it’s going to be worth it all.

*Translated to “golden joinery,” Kintsugi (or Kintsukuroi, which means “golden repair”) is the centuries-old Japanese art of fixing broken pottery with a special lacquer dusted with powdered gold, silver, or platinum. Beautiful seams of gold glint in the cracks of ceramic ware, giving a unique appearance to the piece. Since its conception, Kintsugi has been heavily influenced by prevalent philosophical ideas. Namely, the practice is related to the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi, which calls for seeing beauty in the flawed or imperfect. The repair method was also born from the Japanese feeling of mottainai, which expresses regret when something is wasted, as well as mushin, the acceptance of change.

Kintsugi kinda sounds like Jesus.

Led to brokenness” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

*Photograph & text taken from http://mymodernmet.com/kintsugi-kintsukuroi/

Christian, gospel, grace, Jesus, Spiritual, Uncategorized

The Gospel – it’s not about me

not_about_me

I’ve spent a bit of time lately being reflective. Not in the way I did in the past when scrutiny only brought guilt and shame, but rather just an honest look at where I am, what I’m doing, where I’m going, and what is motivating me. If you’ve read many of my posts, infrequent as they may be lately, you’ve seen that I seem to circle the same wagon, making the same point again and again. Today is not much different because I just can’t get away from the fact that this enormous gift of grace, the gospel, the good news we’ve been offered came with the simplest of instructions on how to live it out. Yet this simple message seems to get lost in our focus on the magnificence of the gift we’ve received.

Maybe it’s just me. Maybe I need to put my thoughts and feelings into words in order to process the information and keep myself on track. I tend to get tunnel vision. I get focused on something I’m doing, where I’m going, etc., and can easily lose sight of all else. Many years ago I heard a man say that God gave him a word and he made it a sentence and ended up in a different place/or with different plans than God had intended. I can easily take a word from God and make it a 5 or 10 year plan, completely forgetting that my faith walk is to be step-by-step with Him!

This morning as I began the difficult task of waking enough to be functional, I turned the TV to a Christian channel. The program airing was not one I watch regularly but I quickly became interested in where the message from this world renowned preacher was going. Millions will have heard his message by the time I post this and I wonder what they will do with these words that were spoken: “Your number one priority is your happiness.”

Now I’m pulling one line from an entire message which was about not allowing others to manipulate you, being aware when it’s time to stop enabling/rescuing others, etc., which was very good information. However, the words above were in essence wrapping up the message, bringing it to his point. And those words tickled my ears. For a split second everything in my flesh wanted to shout “AMEN!” But I know better.

I went out for my run with those words stuck in my head. I was so focused on my thoughts about them that I looked up after a few minutes and didn’t know where I was. I had intended to go on one of my regular routes through the neighborhood but had inadvertently gone a different way. And being directionally challenged this was cause for concern. (I do possess a phone with gps capabilities, however I choose to run without it because I do not want any distractions…lol) I quickly realized that I was not lost but simply on another familiar path so I returned to my processing of the message I’d heard. Turning my thoughts to my own life, it was easy to see how often I’ve gotten spiritually distracted and tried to make the gospel about me.

The truth is that the gospel – the good news of Jesus Christ – that delivers and heals and saves and empowers and frees is not about me. It is for me. Jesus came for me, He bore the sins of all for me (and you), He sent the Helper for me. But the good news was never about me – it was about Him. It has always been about Him. He IS the good news. When I try to take this gift of grace and make it about me, I twist His intent. He didn’t set me free to chase my own dreams. He didn’t deliver me so that I could be more self-aware. He didn’t empower me so that I could be anything I want to be. He did it all so that I could be who and what He designed me to be.

The gospel – the good news of Jesus Christ – is the gracious gift of God for all who will accept, but Jesus said that to truly receive and experience this magnificent gift one must deny self – completely surrender to His will, His way, His pleasure, His desire. Yet somehow we’ve taken the sacrifice and made the gift about us and our own happiness. We sing His praises and proclaim that we have a good, good Father, but we so often do not trust Him with His plans for our lives. It is only in this denial of self that we will find the true fullness of the good news of Jesus.

“For whoever wishes to save his life in this world will eventually lose it through death, but whoever loses his life in this world for My sake and the gospel’s will save it…”  Mark 8:35

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Luke 9:23

It is a challenging balance to maintain – to receive all the wonders of grace and find our identity in Him yet stay focused on Him, not ourselves. To live in the many blessings He pours out over us and yet be willing to hold them loosely, becoming only stewards of what belongs to Him. To exist in our human form and yet live consumed by His mighty presence within.

The gospel – the good news of Jesus Christ – when embraced, changes the perspective of our lives. He has taken a story that is full of the everyday stuff, drama, comedy, satire, mystery, and even a little romance (for this not-so-mushy kind of girl) and given it all meaning and purpose. As He’s revealed Himself in my past, shows Himself in the here and now, and gives me vision to see His hand on my future, I grow to know and trust and love Him more and more. The script of my life has humbled and honored and delighted and even scared me at times, yet I am more confident than ever that the chapters still to come will be rich and full because as long as I will allow, this story will be much more about Him rather than me.  And it will be a very good story because He is good.

The Gospel – it’s not about me” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com